Stop Stansted Expansion accused of leading council 'over the cliff'

London Stansted Airport terminal. Picture: London Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport terminal. Picture: London Stansted Airport - Credit: London Stansted Airport

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion has been accused of leading Uttlesford District Council "over the metaphorical cliff" in a Pied Piper role.  

Thomas Hill, the legal representative for Stansted Airport, made the disputed allegation at a public inquiry relating to the planning appeal.

The airport's application to expand was rejected by UDC in January 2020.

The public inquiry is looking at the proposal again. It started on Tuesday, January 12, at Radisson Blu Hotel and was initially set to run until the end of March. It is now due to last until March 9 but could conclude as early as February.

During the first meeting, Mr Hill warned the airport will be seeking compensation for wasted money, and criticised SSE and its deputy chairman Brian Ross. 

Mr Hill said: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr Ross and SSE have played the role of Pied Piper in relation to Stansted Airport’s application, and have led UDC’s Planning Committee over the metaphorical cliff.”   

Airport representatives have claimed that UDC dropped some of the issues they were pursuing, such as air quality. They also said UDC now agrees the airport's application should be allowed and planning permission granted. 

Inspectors Michael Boniface, Nick Palmer and Gareth Jones have been appointed by the Secretary of State to conduct the inquiry and determine the appeal.  

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Mr Boniface said the inquiry will look into proposals which would enable 43 million terminal passengers a year - an increase of eight million passengers.  

Ahead of the inquiry starting, SSE warned the outcome could lead to Uttlesford and surrounding areas becoming “blighted and urbanised”. The group stressed there is no need for an increased passenger cap, with the pandemic reducing travel.  

They said they fought “tooth and nail” against the expansion but said they are ‘disappointed’ that UDC withdrew their objections to it.  

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “We have powerful, well-researched evidence to put before the Inquiry and we will do just that, regardless of UDC’s position and regardless of the difficulties.” 

Following the opening day of the meeting, R4U councillor John Evans, portfolio holder for Planning and the Local Plan, rejected Mr Hill’s and SSE’s remarks. 

He said: “UDC have acted at all times both professionally and independently, taking full account of the evidence put forward at all stages of the committee and subsequent appeal process. 

“The UDC Planning Committee rejected the application on the grounds that Stansted Airport was unable to justify it, and because the proposed development would not be “sustainable”. The four reasons given by the committee were around aircraft noise, air quality, emissions, and infrastructure. 

“Stansted Airport’s proposals do not overcome these reasons for refusal of the development. UDC remains committed in its defence of the decision of its Planning Committee to refuse the application.”