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High court judge dismisses campaigners' case over deciding airport expansion

PUBLISHED: 16:31 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:31 07 February 2020

The main terminal at Stansted Airport  Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT

The main terminal at Stansted Airport Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT

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Campaigners' hopes of getting a decision on Stansted airport's expansion plans to be decided at national rather than local level have been dashed.

Stansted Airport check-in desks  Picture: LONDON STANSTED AIRPORTStansted Airport check-in desks Picture: LONDON STANSTED AIRPORT

A high court judge decided that the transport secretary does not have a statutory duty to treat Stansted's bid to raise an annual ceiling on passenger numbers to 43m as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) launched its high court bid last year in a case heard by Mr Justice Dove in November. The case centred around the statutory definition of a NSIP.

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It argued that the application should be dealt with nationally rather than by Uttlesford District Council (UDC).

A Stansted spokesman welcomed the "unequivocal dismissal", adding it was "deeply regrettable that a significant amount of taxpayers' money has been wasted in this way".

Passengers in the departure lounge at Stansted Airport  Picture: LUCY MARTINPassengers in the departure lounge at Stansted Airport Picture: LUCY MARTIN

"The judgment endorses the government's policy on 'Making Best Use' of existing runways, which ensures that aviation's carbon emissions are managed in a joined-up way at a national level. This means the judgment also raises serious questions about the way UDC has handled our application and sought to take its own view on these issues."

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He added that the airport was "disappointed" at the council's refusal of its application earlier this year, adding that it would be taking the judgment into account as it considers its next steps.

"The High Court ruling also raises serious questions over the way UDC handled the climate change matters relating to the application," the Stansted spokesman said.

The application was given the thumbs up by the Conservative-led council but when it fell from power last May, the new Residents 4 Uttlesford administration decided to review aspects of it.

In January a special planning committee meeting went against officer advice and voted to turn down the application, citing concerns around air quality, noise and climate change.

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said the group was considering its options. "There are different procedures to be followed depending on whether this application ends up being dealt with through the traditional appeal process of a Public Inquiry or is designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. The NSIP process would be less expensive and less resource-intensive than a public inquiry for both SSE and Uttlesford District Council," he said. ​

"Regardless of how events unfold in the coming months and beyond, UDC's rejection of these proposals for further major expansion at Stansted Airport has demonstrated the kind of resolve that we hope will be shown everywhere in future when an applicant seeks to ride roughshod over the health of the local community and in disregard of the climate emergency."​

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