BAA asked to clarify airport plans

THE Government Minister responsible for dealing with proposals for a second runway at Stansted Airport has asked its operator to clarify whether it still wants to continue with its expansion plans.

Roddy Ashworth

THE Government Minister responsible for dealing with proposals for a second runway at Stansted Airport has asked its operator to clarify whether it still wants to continue with its expansion plans.

But Stansted's owner, BAA, not only said it wanted to press ahead with the project to build a second runway at the Essex airport but also added it was waiting for the Government to set the date for a public inquiry.

John Denham, Secretary of State for Communities, told BAA that if it does still want to continue with its second runway plans then some of the information provided when it submitted the application almost two years ago would need to be updated.

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The message was contained in an open letter sent by the Secretary of State to BAA, pressure group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) and other interested parties.

The minister also said that if BAA does still want its second runway application to be considered, the public inquiry could not start until after the upcoming general election, which must be held no later than June 3.

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Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to ditch any plans for a second runway at Stansted if they win power at the poll.

BAA originally submitted its second runway planning application in March 2008 and pressed for the public inquiry to start within six months.

The Government appointed a planning inspector who decided it was impractical to start the inquiry until April 2009 and that it would take around 18 months to hear all the evidence.

However, six weeks before the public inquiry was due to start, the Secretary of State decided to postpone it because of the uncertainty about the future ownership of Stansted Airport following an investigation by the Competition Commission (CC) into whether or not BAA had a monopoly on UK airports.

BAA was subsequently ordered to sell Stansted and Gatwick and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports, and although an appeal was successfully launched against the decision this could still be overturned.

In the letter Mr Denham wrote: “Given that the planning applications, orders and associated documentation were originally submitted nearly two years ago, I consider there will clearly be a need for the applicant to re-visit some of this material.

“This being the case, I would like to invite BAA to advise me formally what their future intentions are, firstly regarding the planning applications and orders, and secondly, if they are to pursue the proposal for a second runway, around the timescales they might envisage for the inquiry to open, to ensure that any delay is minimised.”

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “We're very pleased that the Secretary of State has now put the ball firmly in BAA's court by asking it to state its future intentions regarding its second runway application.

“BAA has spectacularly failed in its original intention to secure planning approval for a second runway before the next general election, despite having had the present Government's blessing for the development since 2003.

“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, and if BAA does decide to go ahead it must make a start on updating that ten foot pile of planning documents.”

However, David Johnston, managing director at Stansted Airport said: “We believe the case for a second runway at Stansted remains strong and are committed to taking that case to the inquiry when the Government decides it is appropriate to do so.”

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