13th January 2006
The runway that nobody wants
… must be the runway that never gets built
Ensuring that the runway that nobody wants becomes the runway that never gets built was the message from all quarters at a packed public meeting on BAA’s plans for expansion organised by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) last night (Thursday 12 January).
More than 500 people joined the region’s MPs, MEPs, members of the House of Lords and district and county council leaders for the meeting which was held to mobilise opposition to BAA’s plans for a second runway. Formal presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session. The venue the Rhodes Arts Complex in Bishop’s Stortford was packed to capacity and some 200 people had to be turned away.
Mark Prisk MP who chaired the meeting made clear from the outset that by working together, the community could beat the threat of a second runway. The fact that so many people were present at the meeting, he said, bore witness to the commitment and resolve amongst the public and their elected representatives to work tirelessly to overturn BAA’s plans.
Fellow MP Sir Alan Haselhurst continued in the same vein. In a vehement attack on BAA he said: “By asking us to decide where we want a second runway, BAA is effectively asking us to choose our poison. But we don’t want any of the choices on offer, we don’t want any second runway at all. Are you listening BAA? That is the answer to your consultation.”
“We must not get into the mindset of thinking that expansion beyond the present capacity would be acceptable or that we would ever gain any concessions from BAA whose consultation does nothing to meet our concerns,” he continued. There isn’t even any recognition in the consultation of the problems before us arising from the second runway plans, such as more noise in the skies and more congestion on the ground.”
In his address, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders described the second runway consultation as wretchedly flawed “superficial, inadequate and unacceptable” because BAA was merely going through the motions. “The standard of information falls far short of what the Government provided in its original 2002/03 SERAS consultation and even that was twice deemed by the High Court to be flawed. While the consultation contains lots of glossy pictures of airport buildings, aeroplanes and some beautiful landscape, it contains very little information on the most important issues. This,” he said, “makes it impossible for local people wishing to participate in the consultation to make an informed response.”
Peter Sanders concluded: “The clear message we must send to BAA is that any second runway, whatever its precise position, would be an environmental catastrophe and must be rejected outright.”
North Herts MP Oliver Heald drew attention to the wider impacts which the expansion of the airport would have beyond the immediate vicinity of Stansted, not least across his own constituency which was also threatened by plans to expand Luton too.
His sentiments were echoed in the comments of Uttlesford District Council Leader Cllr Mark Gayler and Essex County Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr Peter Martin who responded to questions of concern over not only the second runway proposals but also on the question of full use of the existing runway.
Speaking from the audience, Euro MP Geoffrey van Orden told the meeting that he was pressing for the European Commission to use its powers to ensure a robust single market backed by good competition policy, something which would undermine BAA’s monopoly position in the UK and, more especially, in the South East where 92 percent of the market was controlled by the airport developer.
Omissions from the BAA consultation on the second runway proposals highlighted by SSE at the meeting included the fact that:
- The consultation includes nothing on aircraft emissions and the impacts these would have upon local air quality and health, nor were any details of health or environmental impacts included, or any information on flight paths or safety risk contours – despite the consultation asking the public to state which option it preferred.
- Information on noise is wholly inadequate, totally ignoring World Health Organisation recommendations.
- The consultation also fails to say anything about how an extra million passengers a week would be handled by the local road and rail network or how and where the thousands of extra employees would be housed.
- BAA is also silent about the fact that a second runway would result in operations at Stansted Airport producing the equivalent of 23 million tons of carbon dioxide a year with no attempt to reconcile this with the need to tackle climate change and the national and international priority to reduce carbon emissions.
A copy of the full speech made by SSE Chairman Peter Sanders is available from SSE on request.