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Essex airport decision hits 'regrettable and avoidable' delay after meeting called

PUBLISHED: 05:30 01 May 2019

The sign-off on plans to expand Stansted Airport have been delayed after a group of councillors called for more legal advice  Picture: TONY PICK

The sign-off on plans to expand Stansted Airport have been delayed after a group of councillors called for more legal advice Picture: TONY PICK

Tony Pick

Final planning approval for Stansted airport's controversial expansion has been delayed until after the council elections on May 2 - to the delight of objectors.

Stansted wants to take its ceiling on passenger numbers up by 8m to 43m  Picture: LUCY MARTINStansted wants to take its ceiling on passenger numbers up by 8m to 43m Picture: LUCY MARTIN

The go-ahead, which looked set to be signed off in April, suffered the setback after hitting a procedural hitch when 11 members of Uttlesford District Council voted to seek further legal advice on the planning agreement for the airport, which wants to be able to take more passengers. Stansted described the delay as “regrettable and avoidable”.

The council, which has 38 councillors made up of 24 Conservatives, 4 Liberal Democrats, 10 Residents for Uttlesford and one vacant seat, held an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday, April 25, to consider a motion to instruct the council chief executive not to issue a planning decision notice until a Section 106 legal agreement between the council has been “scrutinized, reviewed and approved” by the council's planning committee after the local elections.

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The motion to refer the Stansted application, which has already been given the green light at planning committee level, back to the committee was defeated.

However, 11 councillors then called for an extraordinary meeting to seek legal advice on the planning agreement, which now needs to be held after election day.

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Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), which continues to press for a judicial review of the decision in the High Court, claiming that it is 'too complex' to be dealt with locally and needs to be settled at national level, welcomed the delay.

The procedural motion, put forward by Residents for Uttlesford councillors, supported by Liberal Democrats and two out of the 20 Conservative councillors present, had “foiled” the current administration's attempt to “rush through” final approval, it said.

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “Thankfully, there will now be an opportunity to look at this afresh in a less frenzied atmosphere after the local elections have run their course, whatever that course may be.”

A council spokesman said, “A motion to refer the matter back to the planning committee was defeated at the extraordinary council meeting on Thursday (25 April). Eleven members of the council then called an extraordinary council meeting to seek further legal advice on the planning agreement for Stansted Airport. It is not possible to hold the meeting until after the election. Because of the call for the council meeting, it would not be appropriate to sign the agreement and to issue planning approval at present.”

A Stansted spokesman said: “While we welcome the fact that councillors voted against referring our S106 legal agreement back to its planning committee, we are disappointed that the actions of a small minority of councillors have led to the council delaying the issuing of our planning permission.

“Our comprehensive mitigation package has already been the subject of many months of negotiations, and has been reviewed and approved by the Council's independent legal team and independent statutory consultees such as Highways England and Essex County Council before being approved by the council's own planning committee. This further review and delay is both regrettable and avoidable.”

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