Nearly 200,000 square metres of warehouses, offices, shops and a nursery have been approved next to Stansted Airport

Applicant Columbia Threadneedle says the plans north of international airport will boost the local economy, attract businesses to Uttlesford whilst diversifying the district’s reliance on the airport, and raise £10m in business rates.

But questions were raised by planning committee members at an Uttlesford District Council meeting yesterday afternoon (January 25) over whether its warehouse-heavy design suited local need. Councillors also raised concerns over the 195,100 square metre-plan on local air quality and traffic.

Speaking at the meeting, asset manager from Columbia Threadneedle Samantha Hadland said the land is currently an underutilised brownfield site, but is well-connected by rail, road air and sea and could link businesses to 80 per cent of the UK’s population within four hours.

She said: "The site presents a real opportunity to bring forward cutting-edge, sustainable development, which is estimated to produce over two and a half thousand jobs in construction and long term career opportunities for over 2,000 people when the park has been built, which is an opportunity to provide real economic and social benefits for Uttlesford."

The council’s portfolio holder for the economy, investment and corporate strategy Neil Reeve (Residents for Uttlesford, Broad Oak & The Hallingburys) appeared at the meeting to express his support for the scheme, but said its mix of building types was a "missed opportunity".

95 per cent of the development would be for storage and distribution, leaving five per cent for mixed business use, according to a council report. There will also be space for retail, a cafe and a day nursery.

He said: "We do not need more office space but we urgently need light industrial and general business space, particularly for start-up and incubator businesses."

Councillor Janice Loughlin (Stort Valley, Lib Dem and Green Alliance) requested a receptor be installed at the site to measure the local air quality.

She said: "It’s no use saying people are going to rely on electric cars in the future, we can’t be sure. But we can be sure that people will be working at this airport and they will be adding to the pollution around it."

A council officer at the meeting said an air quality management scheme will need to be submitted as part of the development, which could include a receptor.

Councillor Geoff Bagnall (RfU, Takeley) said he thought not enough work had been done with Essex Highways regarding how traffic will be managed. He claimed the development could encourage drivers to cut through other areas to avoid sitting in traffic on the A120.

He said: “We know it’s already over capacity and it’s probably going to get a lot worse, the predictions are that it’ll be a lot worse, so where is that traffic going to go?”

According to the report, a cap on the number of vehicles entering and leaving the site in peak periods has been proposed as a planning condition.

An area of grassland, containing four football pitches used by Elsenham Youth Football Club, is set to be lost due to the development. But a full-sized, floodlit all-weather pitch at nearby Forest Hall School has been proposed by the applicant in order to mitigate this.

However, Sport England objected to the application, partly on the grounds that the new pitch does not yet have planning permission.

Additionally, FedEx, which operates out of Stansted Airport, objected to the plans over the loss of a border control point, which it said would have a “devastating” impact on the importation of animal products.

The border control point is set to be relocated in the airport, however this is not part of the current application.

Councillors granted permission for the scheme in principle, with final details likely to come forwards at a later date.