26th April 2005

SSE tells council to demand the full truth from BAA

BAA must provide further information on impacts of its expansion plans

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called on Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to fulfil its duty to the community and insist that BAA provides a full and comprehensive picture of the adverse effects which the expansion of Stansted Airport would create and of the measures to mitigate them.

The demand was made in the wake of BAA’s dismissal of key information requests made by UDC on the content of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) which will be essential in deciding any planning application for expanding the capacity of the existing runway.

Planning law requires BAA to submit an EIA when it applies to go beyond the permitted capacity of 25 million passengers per annum (mppa). The EIA will have to identify and assess the main effects which BAA’s development would have on the environment at large and describe the measures envisaged to avoid, reduce and mitigate adverse effects. A health impact assessment (HIA) will also be necessary.

BAA has treated UDC’s information requests with contempt. On page after page of its 21-page response, there is repeated refusal to provide the depth and breadth of information which will fully reveal the true impacts of expansion. If the council does not stand firm now, SSE made clear, public confidence in UDC’s ability to stand up for local people’s interests in determining expansion applications will be significantly eroded.

BAA’s rejection of Uttlesford’s request for a Quality of Life Assessment, for example, on the basis that “the airport boundary is not being extended” completely disregards the impacts which expanded operations would have far beyond the perimeter fence. Other numerous examples of downplaying the significance of increased capacity appear throughout the response document, notable for its refusal to be transparent and accountable through the provision of proper measurement and predictive studies into noise, air pollution, traffic, rail access and other areas covered by the EIA.

“BAA is obviously anxious to keep things as tight and as narrow as possible to avoid being held responsible for the impacts of expansion or for their mitigation if mitigation were truly possible for the environmental catastrophe which is being proposed,” said SSE Chairman Peter Sanders.

“Even before BAA’s response to the scoping opinion emerged there were concerns within the community that the EIA, which will be paid for by BAA, would have an extremely narrow focus and go no further than the very basic requirements of planning law. These fears are being justified and it is now clear that if Uttlesford is to make a full and fair assessment of any application to go beyond the currently permitted capacity of 25mppa it must insist on knowing the true picture. This must cover not only the consequences of the airport’s expansion but the consequences of all related developments generated by that expansion.”

The application for expanded use of the existing runway is currently expected in late 2005 although the schedule has slipped repeatedly since the Air Transport White Paper was published in December 2003. The application for the second runway, not covered by the Scoping Opinion response, is expected in late Spring 2006, over a year later than originally planned by BAA.

NOTES

Passenger throughput at Stansted Airport is currently in the region of 21 mppa, over four times the number in 1997 when just 5 million passengers passed through its terminal. The permitted capacity of the existing runway is 25 mppa which is likely to be reached in 2006, four years earlier than originally suggested by BAA when it made the application for permission to increase from 15 to 25 mppa. While the next application is expected to be for 35 mppa, the runway is capable of handling at least double the current number of passengers. The majority of passengers travel to the airport by car.

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport