Stansted expansion could still go ahead as airport appeals unanimous council decision

PUBLISHED: 13:46 11 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:53 11 July 2020

Plans for the airport espansion included a traning centre for Stansted staff Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT LIMITED

Plans for the airport espansion included a traning centre for Stansted staff Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT LIMITED

Stansted Airport Limited

Stansted Airport’s long-awaited expansion could still go-ahead after it announced it would appeal a decision by local councillors to refuse an increase in passenger numbers.

Ken O'Toole, London Stansted Airport CEO, was Ken O'Toole, London Stansted Airport CEO, was "disappointed" at the decision of Uttlesford District Council Picture: LONDON STANSTED AIRPORT

The airport, owned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), had applied to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to increase the annual maximum number of passengers allowed from 35million to 43m by building new hangars, runway links and a purpose-built training academy for staff.

The application was rejected after a fraught planning committee meeting on January 24, 2020, despite the committee granting conditional approval in November 2018. UDC planning officials had recommended the plans be approved but councillors opposed the move.

MORE: Stansted expansion blocked by council U-turn after dramatic planning showdown

Now airport bosses have revealed they will appeal to the planning inspectorate before the end of the month, but that announcement has been decried as “cynical, callous and pointless” by opposition group, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE).

London Stansted CEO Ken O’Toole said: “Since January, we have carefully considered the comments made by the planning committee, the strong case we made about environmental effects, alongside our assessment of the significant benefits that the future success of Stansted will deliver to the region.

“In our view, the council failed to provide any credible or substantiated reasons to justify its decision to refuse the application.

“It is regrettable that we have been put in a position of having to appeal, particularly in light of the clear advice the council’s elected members received from their officers and expert legal advisors, but also because of the time and significant costs that will be incurred as a result of the appeal.”

The inspectorate, which operates at a national level and sits within the Ministry for Housing, would hold a public inquiry before making a final decision.

SSE chairman Peter Saunders has blasted the decision to appeal, pointing to his group’s preference for the expansion to be decided at a national level in the first place.

Mr Sanders said: “It is the height of cynicism for MAG to insist all along that its planning application should be determined locally and then, when it does not obtain the result it wants, to appeal for a public inquiry, aimed at overturning the local decision.

“MAG chose the playing field and it should respect the democratic verdict of our local council.”

“An inquiry would mean that the outcome might not be known for another 18 months and could cost our local council up to £1.7m.

“In the current circumstances, there is tremendous pressure on local finances and there are far more important priorities.”

In August 2018, SSE applied to the Transport Secretary at the time, Chris Grayling, to have the expansion handled as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), but the department found the district council was fit to make the decision in February 2020. SSE can still appeal this decision.

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