Stansted Airport expansion rejected by councillors

PUBLISHED: 08:50 29 January 2020

Photo: Andra Maciuca/ARCHANT

Photo: Andra Maciuca/ARCHANT

Archant

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) voted against expansion plans for Stansted Airport during a planning committee meeting on Friday, January 24.

Photo: Andra Maciuca/ARCHANTPhoto: Andra Maciuca/ARCHANT

Councillors voted against increasing the airport's passenger cap from 35 to 43 million passengers per year - with ten votes against and two abstentions.

The plans were previously approved in November 2018.

Councillor Alan Dean showed doubt towards the integrity of the planning application's handling: "I recently questioned why there is no obligation for Stansted Airport to support the provision of truly affordable housing, so that lower paid airport employees can afford to live close to where they work. That plea has been met with total silence."

He then referred to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland which took place on Wednesday, January 22. Cllr Dean said his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales "spoke to the world's super rich and world leaders" and challenged Uttlesford leaders to "accept" His Royal Highness's challenge. "Send a message to central government: 'If you won't act first, we will!'", said Cllr Dean.

Photo: Andra Maciuca/ARCHANTPhoto: Andra Maciuca/ARCHANT

Cllr Barbara Light highlighted the temperatures increase, with air travel as a contributing factor. She then addressed the attendees at the meeting: "I am speaking directly to your hearts, on behalf of our children and their children, who will suffer from the effects of the Stansted Airport expansion.

"I am speaking to you on behalf of life itself, the air that we breathe. Can you say to future generations, I was there, I could have stopped it, but I did nothing?"

Cllr Colin Day questioned Manchester Airports Group (MAG)'s motivations to expand Stansted Airport: "It's financial. MAG's stated objective is to increase profits for its shareholders. That's what it says on their website.

"Incidentally, MAG's biggest private shareholder is registered in the Cayman Islands. There are only two possible reasons for that: tax avoidance and secrecy. So, what's the priority - the health and quality of life of our local residents, or increased profits for a secretive Cayman Islands company?"

An aerial shot of Stansted AirportAn aerial shot of Stansted Airport

Regarding alleged employment benefits from the airport, Cllr Day said the airport is "struggling" to recruit locals.

The recruitment issue was also highlighted in a presentation from Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), who compared the employment benefits put forward by the airport with a lack of employees and the higher potential of other London Airports to develop professional prospects.

They said: "Stansted Airport struggles to find people. The main recruitment ground is from Central and Eastern Europe."

The SSE spokesmen also listed evidence from the World Health Organisation related to noise and air pollution as "appropriate matters for review".

Stansted Airport. Picture: JP AsherStansted Airport. Picture: JP Asher

Referring to previous decisions made in legal proceedings in the UK, SSE said: "A planning committee is entitled to different planning judgements leading to a different conclusion and can lawfully reverse an earlier decision, provided it has good planning reasons, even if there are no material changes of circumstances"

Mr Brian Ross concluded by looking at carbon dioxide's impact on the atmosphere: "Even if we stopped the consequences now, things are going to get worse. And the longer we leave it, the worse it will get. I'm not usually the kind of individual who gets involved in emotional arguments, I tend to focus on numbers and facts, but with climate change it's impossible not to.

"If planet earth had a vote here today, which way would it vote?"

Ken O'Toole, Chief Executive at Stansted Airport, attended the meeting with John Twigg, his planning director, who covered technical aspects of the application for the airport's expansion.

The entrance to Stansted AirportThe entrance to Stansted Airport

Mr O'Toole argued that the eight-million passenger increase "creates no significant impacts" on air quality, carbon, noise and transport, and that it would deliver £35 million of investment in the Uttlesford.

He said: "Our mission is two-fold: to meet the needs of those using the airport and also to ensure that local people are able to travel, to trade, to find employment, to develop their careers and to enjoy a prosperous future.

"We remain an attractive proposition for leisure and business passengers and airlines alike. In the last 12 months, we have announced Emirates going 'double daily' to Dubai, Air India to Mumbai and Amritsar with a Boeing 787 and Ural Airlines to Moscow with an Airbus A320. Looking ahead to the summer season, early indications from airlines are that they are asking Stansted for a 15 per cent increase in seats flown compared to last summer."

Talking about climate change, John Twigg, planning director, said aviation accounts for "two per cent of global and six per cent of UK carbon dioxide emissions".

Runway at Stansted AirportRunway at Stansted Airport

By comparison, "the fashion industry is ten per cent of global emissions", he said, adding that it is "rising fast, making it a greater contributor to the problem than the international shipping and aviation industries added together."

It is not known whether there will be an appeal against the decision to refuse the airport expansion.

A Green Party spokesperson said after the meeting: "Cllr Paul Fairhurst, led the lengthy debate with his strong and focused marshalling of the arguments throughout the hearing. 'I had to stand up for residents, many of whom had spoken passionately about climate change and the environment. We were prepared to put these before dubious short term economic growth', he said.

"But Cllr Neil Reeve also noted that, 'Whatever the legal complexities are here, we also have a moral decision to make.' And make it they did!

"A balance must be struck between company profits and the health and prospects of future generations. In the meantime, the members of the planning committee are to be congratulated on the stand they have taken: Planet Earth 1, Aviation 0!"

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