Council's handling of Stansted Airport planning application to be investigated

PUBLISHED: 10:38 17 January 2019

An independent body will examine Uttlesford District Council's handling of Stansted Airport planning application. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

An independent body will examine Uttlesford District Council's handling of Stansted Airport planning application. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Saffron Photo 2018

Councillors have agreed to commission an independent investigation into Uttlesford District Council's handling of large planning applications - including the Stansted Airport planning application which was approved in November.

The purpose of the “independent study” will be to identify improvements to the council’s processes for handling large applications.

One of the cases to be studied will be Stansted Airport’s application to increase their passenger capacity as well as other large planning applications that will “enhance the value of the study”.

Councillor Mark Lemon and Councillor Barbara Light asked for the scrutiny review of how the council handled several aspects of the airport application, including whether the council’s engagement with the applicant, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), should have been kept confidential and whether consultation arrangements and public speaking arrangements were adequate.

The purpose of the study is to identify whether good practice was followed and how improvements can be made when handling large planning applications in the future.

Six members of the public spoke at the scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday and Councillor Alan Dean, chairman of the committee, received two additional representations.

Cllr Dean said: “The reason that Councillor Lemon and Councillor Light wanted a review is that they felt it was not handled well enough, which left the public not trusting the decision made. I suppose you could say democracy wasn’t seen to be done. So we want this to be done thoroughly and professionally.

“The airport process will be looked at in detail once we appoint somebody to do the work, which will be an independent body and we’re not just looking at the airport, but also looking at other large scale applications and see if there are any systematic problems that occur each time.”

A draft report and draft recommendations should be published by the summer and additional meetings of the scrutiny committee will be called if they are needed to ensure that the study work begins on time to meet the timetable.

A task group comprising the committee chairman and vice chairman, plus Cllr Lemon and Cllr Light, will be established to work with officers to progress the initiative.

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