Be realistic on growth at Stansted Airport, commission told
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THE Government’s commission on airports has been warned not to publish proposals for an “unwanted and unviable” mega-airport at Stansted.
It should instead focus on realistic and affordable options that will allow “sensible growth” in the county, according to Essex County Council (ECC).
The authority today publishes its submission to the Davies Commission, the body given the job of coming up with a strategy to meet Britain’s future air capacity needs.
ECC says proposals that have already been submitted, such as closing Heathrow and building a four-runway “super-hub airport” either at Stansted or on the Thames Estuary, would be too costly and disruptive to deliver.
The Davies Commission has already received more than 50 long-term proposals and is expected to announce a short-list of options by the end of the year ahead of delivering its conclusions in 2015.
ECC leader David Finch said: “The UK does not have the time or the money to waste on unpractical or undeliverable schemes that could suck up a sum of taxpayer’s money equivalent to twice the UK’s defence budget.
“Any proposal for a giant super-hub airport at Stansted is completely unacceptable to the council and Essex residents.
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“While ECC does support sensible growth at Stansted, it does not believe the case for a second runway exists at the present time.
“However, the council does recognise that additional runway capacity at airports across the south east – including Gatwick and Stansted – are likely to be inevitable in the long term.”
Mr Finch added: “Stansted has the scope to more than double its annual passenger and freight numbers before anyone even thinks of the need for a second runway but this commission has to look at long-term options and we have to be realistic about that.
“If ministers in London do impose further capacity on our airport, they need to know that a bill comes with that.
“We would need assurances that the environmental impact would be minimised and that there would be massive investment in road and rail infrastructure for Essex.”
A spokesman for the Manchester Airport Group, which owns Stansted Airport, said the site offered planners flexibility now and into the long term.
He said: “Stansted offers a credible and flexible range of options to meet the UK’s future aviation capacity needs.
“We can double the number of flights today by 130,000 without any need for significant investment in new infrastructure and have submitted a number of long-term options for consideration by the Airports Commission.”
However, Peter Sanders, chairman of the Stop Stansted Expansion pressure group, said he refuted the assertion that a second runway at Stansted some time in the future was inevitable.
He said: “We are pleased that ECC are taking the same line as us and don’t see the need for mega-hub airport at Stansted.
“But, unlike ECC, we do not accept there will ever be a need for a second runway.
“Even by the Department of Transport’s own projections there will be no demand for a second runway for at least another 40 years.”