Councillors approve Stansted Airport expansion plans

PUBLISHED: 18:13 14 November 2018 | UPDATED: 20:49 14 November 2018

The entrance to Stansted Airport

The entrance to Stansted Airport

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Stansted Airport’s expansion plans have been approved by Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee.

The new departure lounge at Stansted AirportThe new departure lounge at Stansted Airport

A tense meeting of the planning committee at Uttlesford District Council ended with councillors voting to approve a controversial proposal by the owners of Stansted Airport to raise its annual passenger cap.

After more than seven hours of deliberations in the council chamber today, councillors approved Manchester Airport Group’s application to increase its annual passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million.

Parish councillors and local residents were given the chance to speak on the application and raised concerns about traffic, noise and pollution.

Councillor Alan Dean, from Stansted Mountfitchet Parish Council, said the airport was a mixed blessing for Uttlesford residents - it employed many people but it also caused road and railway congestion. He said the committee did not have all the evidence needed to make an informed decision and concluded that the Government should be making the decision.

Councillor Peter Jones, also a parish councillor for Stansted Mountfitchet, said the application was “unwelcome and unsound”.

Local resident and parish councillor, Graham Mott, 83, has lived in Elsenham, a village near Stansted Airport, all his life. He said residents can no longer have their doors open during the day due to the noise of planes and the smell of fuel.

Brian Ross, on behalf of campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion, reiterated the need for a public enquiry.

“Give us a chance to challenge them [the applicant] at a public enquiry,” Mr Ross said. “Let’s put the facts and evidence before a public enquiry.”

But support for the airport’s plan was voiced by airline operator Jet2, the principal of Stansted Airport College and Invest Essex.

Karen Spencer, principal and chief executive of Harlow College and the newly opened Stansted Airport College, said the opening of the education facility meant 700 young people stay in Uttlesford for their education, boosting the local economy.

A spokesman for Jet2 said the company was strongly in favour of Stansted Airport’s expansion and the business needed certainty for investment.

Addressing the planning committee and members of the public, Ken O’Toole, CEO of Stansted Airport, said “a successful airport and a successful region go hand-in-hand” and emphasised that the application was about making “best use” of the runway, rather than maximising its use.

“I am proud of the airport’s growth since 2013, especially in what is a very competitive aviation market,” Mr O’Toole said. “But I am also proud of the way in which we have delivered the growth - in a phased and managed way that has seen us remain committed to our core principles, with an enduring responsibility to our local environment and our neighbours to operate, develop and grow in a sustainable and balanced manner.”

Councillor Paul Fairhurst. who sits on the district council’s planning committee, said he would be refusing the application on the grounds of protecting future generations from the ‘harms of noise and air pollution’.

Other members of the committee, Councillor Anthony Gerard and Councillor Janice Loughlin, also raised concerns about pollution.

But Councillor Robert Chambers said he would be voting to approve Stansted Airport’s plans - for the benefit of the next generation.

“If you know anything about big business, and I mean big business, you know you have to plan for the future,” Cllr Chambers said. “I am thinking about the future generation of Uttlesford - where they will work, where they will live, and the airport has something to do with all of that.”

The motion to approve the plans was backed by five votes to five with the chairman having the casting vote for approval.

Welcoming the decision, Mr O’Toole, said: “Today’s decision offers London Stansted and its airline partners the long-term clarity we need to make further investment decisions at the airport but also importantly provides the local community with the assurance that our future growth will be delivered in a measured and sustainable way.

“From the outset our local community has been a vital partner in this planning process and it was their feedback which lead us to put forward a proposal which did not seek an increase in the number of flights and committed to deliver the growth within a smaller noise footprint than our existing permissions require.”

The airport’s growth will be accompanied by a comprehensive package of community measures. Expansion will be delivered within existing flights limits and a smaller noise footprint than previous permissions required.

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