Stansted Airport’s long-awaited expansion was dramatically blocked after the district council overturned a previous decision to green-light the plans.

East Anglian Daily Times: Plans for the first-purpose-built further education college at an airport make up part of the plans for Stansted's expansion Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT LIMITEDPlans for the first-purpose-built further education college at an airport make up part of the plans for Stansted's expansion Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT LIMITED (Image: Stansted Airport Limited)

In an extraordinary planning committee meeting at Uttlesford District Council (UDC) on January 24, seven hours of debate ended in a shock decision with councillors ignoring a recommendation to approve the plans. The expansion had included two new taxiway links to runways and nine new hangars, increasing the number of passengers it could handle to a maximum of 43million passengers every year.

The debate about the expansion has raged since the application was submitted almost two years ago - culminating in more than 500 pages of reports and 200 letters from the public.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has opposed the plans since they were submitted to the council in February 2018.

SSE deputy chairman Brian Ross said: "It's a good day for the local residents of Uttlesford.

"There was a packed council chamber for a huge problem being dealt with by one of the smallest district councils in England.

"The Manchester Airport Group wanted this decided at the district level, not the national level, two and a half years ago.

"Now they need to respect the decision and not appeal against it.

"We have been doing this for two years, the local community needs some peace of mind and respite."

The decision was made with 10 councillors voting to overturn the previous approval, and two councillors, who were also members of SSE, abstaining.

Mr Ross added: "One of the biggest issues of today was climate change. Stansted Airport is one of the biggest CO2 producers in the East of England. "Someone had to stand up and say that this expansion was too much."

A council spokesman said: "The reasons for today's refusal were made in relation to noise, air quality and climate change; matters the committee agreed were material planning changes since the approval was granted."

The plans were initially approved in November 2018, subject to a section 106 agreement - meaning airport owners Manchester Airport Group (MAG) had to detail how they would invest in jobs in the area and minimise the impact on the local community.

Proposals were drawn up for a £35m investment in noise reduction schemes and on-site higher education training facilities for staff.

After a change of administration at the district council - with power shifting from the Conservatives to the Residents for Uttlesford independents - it was delayed in June 2019 so councillors could reassess the agreement.

After the marathon seven-hour meeting, in which the chairman had to tell members of the public to stop applauding those opposing the plans, the new council overturned the previous conditional permission.

A spokesman for Stansted Airport stopped short of announcing an appeal against the decision, but said it was "naturally disappointed".

"From the outset, we have listened to local communities to put forward an application that delivers the benefits of growth and a comprehensive package of mitigation measures.

"We are naturally disappointed that the committee has chosen to consciously ignore the recommendations of not only its own officers but also the additional advice it commissioned at significant cost to the taxpayer from independent technical experts and lawyers.

"The conclusions of this advice were clear that there should be no impediment to granting approval.

"We will now carefully consider the comments made by the committee before deciding our next steps."