Time and money key to expansion

EXPANSION plans at Stansted Airport seem to depend completely on two variables – time and money, a meeting has been told. A pre-inquiry meeting into the G2 project to add a second runway, second terminal and vast road and rail improvements was held on Mon

EXPANSION plans at Stansted Airport seem to depend completely on two variables - time and money, a meeting has been told.

A pre-inquiry meeting into the G2 project to add a second runway, second terminal and vast road and rail improvements was held on Monday afternoon, and the lead planning inspector declared that he would like to avoid a Heathrow Terminal Five problem by speeding up the inquiry process, much to the disgust of assembled councillors, houseowners and campaigners.

The inspector, Andrew Phillipson, said: "We do not want this to go on for four years in the same way that Heathrow did because that is too long and I will have to write a report afterwards and I have other things to do with my life."

This was met with disgust from some of the 450 assembled people in the Hilton Hotel, just on the outskirts of the airport.


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A stunned Derek O'Connell, owner of the Three Horseshoes Pub in Duton Hill, replied: "What about us, we all have lives, and we are the people that will have to move as a result of this expansion."

Stop Stansted Expansion group (SSE) and parish representatives also expressed concerns over the project being rushed through at the inquiry stage via, effectively, two inquiries running at the same time, one in relation to roads and infrastructure and one into environmental and historical issues.

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This was met with cries of "nonsense" from the public galleries.

SSE economics spokesman Brian Ross represented the group at the hearing. "We do not have the resources to run two inquires at the same time, we barely have enough for one," he said.

He and councillors raised the question of fairness, something that airport owner BAA, represented at the meeting by four barristers, continues to promote.

A BAA spokesman said: "We believe the inquiry must be fair, and fair for all."

A further meeting, controversially not open to the public, will be held on January 19 2009 when the main parties will discuss the exact details of the inquiry, with the SSE designated as an 'umbrella' group to represent public opinion.

But homeowners from nearby towns and villages simply do not agree with a 'behind closed doors' meeting saying that planning inspectors seem to be under pressure from Government ministers to conclude the inquiry quickly.

Raymond Woodcock, from Stansted Mountfitchet, said: "I believe this is a public inquiry and we have a right to attend hearings. I would be willing to attend 100 per cent of them."

Mr Phillipson defended his position by saying: "I have no contact with ministers and I am an entirely independent inspector. I want this procedure to be as fair as it can be.

"But in order to hold constructive meetings and discuss the fine details with the main parties involved it cannot be done in a room with this many people.

"I don't want to do anything behind closed doors as this goes against my entire ethos, but we need to do this in a very efficient way."

What do you think? E-mail us at nick.thompson@archant.co.uk or write to us at 54 High Street, Saffron Walden, CB10 1EE.

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