4th February 2007

Think Global – Act Local

‘Think Global – Act Local’ was the theme of Stop Stansted Expansion’s (SSE) 2007 Community Conference today (Sunday 4 February) attended by more than 200 delegates. The message was a powerful reference to the rapidly growing contribution of air travel to global climate change and the threat to the local environment posed by BAA’s expansion plans for Stansted.

The half day event brought together community leaders and politicians from across the East of England, environmental groups and grassroots supporters who reaffirmed their determination to overturn plans for the expansion at Stansted Airport. Some 50 different organisations were represented as well as campaign groups from other communities threatened by airport expansion including Heathrow.

The far-reaching consequences of proposals for unlimited passenger growth on the airport’s single runway – currently capped at 25 million passengers a year – were discussed in anticipation of the Public Inquiry into the airport operator’s planning application this summer. The very considerable obstacles to the development of a second runway, plans for which were launched by BAA last week, were also considered in the context of the significant regulatory, economic, planning and Parliamentary challenges which BAA faces.

A review of SSE’s progress highlighted the four year delay to a second runway which campaigners and their allies have already achieved. The original target date of 2011 for a second Stansted runway has long since fallen by the wayside with BAA making clear that even if its hopes for planning permission were granted, 2015 would be the earliest feasible construction date.

The Public Inquiry into the single runway expansion proposals also presents opportunities for the campaign group to push plans for expansion back still further. BAA had originally hoped to secure planning permission for expansion on the single runway last September but the application was refused by Uttlesford District Council in November. A Government decision following the Public Inquiry is unlikely before 2008 despite BAA’s hopes for an early result.

Local and regional concerns about noise from increased overflying and pressure on the region’s creaking road and rail network remain key factors behind the overwhelming opposition to airport expansion plans across East Anglia.

In addition, the groundswell of public opinion calling for urgent and meaningful action to tackle the threat of climate change has pushed the incongruities of the Governments policies on climate change and air transport expansion dramatically to the fore. Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which give rise to global warming. Expansion on Stansted’s existing runway would result in its CO2 emissions reaching the equivalent of 7 million tonnes a year. A second runway would see these increase to 12 million tonnes annually.

In an insightful presentation to the conference, SSE Executive Committee member Peter Riding put into context the carbon emissions that would arise if full use of Stansted’s single runway were to be permitted following the imminent Public Inquiry. He pointed out that the equivalent of the 7 million tonnes of CO2 that would be produced by Stansted would eliminate all the savings from switching 350 million conventional light bulbs to low energy lighting, taking 2.3 million cars off the road, or turning off the power to 1.4 million family homes. This corresponds to all the homes in Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk.

In the context of the Government’s target to reduce UK carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, Peter Riding pointed out that it was unthinkable to allow such rapid growth in aviation and asked where the savings would be made.

Councillor Peter Martin, Deputy Leader of Essex County Council congratulated SSE on the professionalism of the conference and commended Uttlesford District Council (UDC) for its decision to refuse BAA’s application for unlimited expansion on the current runway. He said that Essex County Council would stand shoulder to shoulder with UDC in defending the decision at Public Inquiry and felt sure that he was also speaking for Hertfordshire County Council and East Herts District Councils. He gave an assurance that all the local councils would coordinate resources to support UDC in opposing BAA’s plans at the Public Inquiry.

Saffron Walden MP and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Alan Haselhurst made a stirring closing address lambasting BAA for its spin and deception, saying: “BAA’s propaganda would have us believe in some Utopia where Boeings and butterflies could joyously co-exist.”

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport