Uttlesford council applies for court review of airport expansion plan

People stand far apart, social distancing for Covid-19. All of them have bags, about to board a plane

Social distancing in Stansted Airport. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

A last-ditch bid to block Stansted Airport expansion plans has been lodged with the High Court.

Uttlesford District Council wants to take a Planning Inspectorate ruling to judicial review to stop the airport from increasing its capacity by eight million passengers per year.

The council submitted its application to the court this week, just days before its submission deadline tomorrow (Thursday, July 8), according to a UDC spokesperson.

The Planning Inspectorate ruled in May that Stansted Airport could build nine new aircraft stands to accommodate a maximum 43 million passengers each year, up from a capacity of 35 million at the moment.

Council leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice.

He said in June: "The reasons that the inspectors gave in their letters were not sufficiently clear to enable the residents of Uttlesford to understand why these particular decisions have been taken."

Councillor John Lodge did not want to make a further comment.

Stansted Airport first submitted plans to expand in February 2018.

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion - now known as Stansted Airport Watch - asked for a judicial review of the submission which would have seen decision-making powers transferred from the council to the Secretary of State for Transport.

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A planning judge threw out the challenge, leaving district councillors to refuse planning permission in 2020.

Manchester Airport Group then took its proposals to the Planning Inspectorate, which effectively gave the airport the green light for expansion.

The Planning Inspectorate ordered Uttlesford council to pay Stansted's legal bill.

A sign on chrome metal: Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Council leaders hope the High Court can reverse these decisions.

Since the Planning Inspectorate made its decision, the government enshrined a new "Carbon Budget" into legislation.

The Sixth Carbon Budget, which came into force last month, aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

To do this, the UK's share of international aviation will be included in carbon measuring to help the government achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emission by 2050.

The Planning Inspectorate invited the council, airport and Stansted Airport Watch to comment on anticipated changes to the carbon budget before it made a ruling, but said it only considered legislation in place at the time of the appeal.

In June, a spokesperson for the Inspectorate told this newspaper: "Inspectors are independent and impartial.

"When making a decision, inspectors give careful consideration to the evidence submitted at the time of the appeal taking account of current planning legislation, guidance and policy."

The Inspectors' letter said: "Having heard a significant amount of evidence on carbon and climate change during the Inquiry, the matters raised by the announcement did not necessitate reopening the Inquiry."

Uttlesford District Council is yet to confirm the details of the application, and the High Court did not say whether it has received the application before publication.

Brian Ross, Chairman of Stansted Airport Watch, told this newspaper: "It is almost certain that SAW will be supporting Uttlesford District Council's claims in the High Court, although we would want to carefully review the submission first."

The High Court in London, where Mr Justice Nicol will deliver his ruling on Johnny Depp's high-profi

The High Court in London - Credit: PA

In 2019, Stansted Airport was the fourth-busiest UK airport in terms of 'aircraft movement' with 199,925 aircraft taking off or landing at the site in that year.

It is the East of England's largest single-site employer, but during the pandemic, footfall dropped by 95 percent year-on-year from March 2020-21.

Freight movement increased by 53pc.

The airport is vying for recovery after the pandemic.

When the government last reviewed its International Travel Lists, Charlie Cornish, the CEO of Stansted owners Manchester Airport Group, said certainty and transparency were "fundamental to the future of the sector".

Two women sit on the floor in front of a glass window at Stansted Airport

A ban on international holidays was lifted on May 17, 2021. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

But some fear expanding airports for economic reasons could come at an environmental cost.

In May, The New Economics Foundation released a report which said proposals and paperwork for expansions at Stansted, Bristol, Leeds-Bradford and Southampton airports ignore up to £13.4 billion in environmental damage.

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