Council backs airport plans

FURIOUS campaigners battling sweeping expansion plans for the region's main airport last night accused Suffolk County Council of abandoning the countryside.

FURIOUS campaigners battling sweeping expansion plans for the region's main airport last night accused Suffolk County Council of abandoning the countryside.

Incensed members of the South Suffolk Air Traffic Action Group hit out at the authority after it emerged members are all set to give their approval to the massive growth of Stansted Airport - which would increase air traffic in the area by a massive 70 per cent.

Residents - who claim their rural peace is already being spoiled - say they face the prospect of unbearable noise thanks to the expansion scheme and condemned the county council for ignoring their concerns in favour of an unproven boom for the local economy.

A spokesman for the action group said: “It is our view that the county council has not looked at the issues carefully enough.

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“I think the economic benefits of any expansion at Stansted for Suffolk is not as considerable as people might think and it seems clear that the county council are putting the economy ahead of people's well-being.

“This is very disappointing and we don't think we have been involved in the consultation as much as we should have been.”

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County councilors have been urged to give the green light to expansion plans at Stansted when their cabinet meets on Thursday.

Under the proposals - currently going through a consultation process before a formal application is made - passenger numbers would increase to 35 million within ten years by expanding current facilities.

The action group has also been backed by South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo who said there was “little evidence” to suggest there were beneficial effects for either the local or national economy.

“I believe that the social, economic and environmental costs of further development of the airport outweigh the purported advantages of expansion,” he said.

“The peace and tranquility enjoyed by local residents will be threatened by large-scale expansion of the airport.

“I recognise that the expansion of Stansted will have some benefits for the local community, including provision of jobs and attracting new industry.

“However, the overall economic impact of expansion may be detrimental.”

Eddy Alcock, the council's portfolio holder for environment, waste and economic development who compiled the report to the cabinet, admitted it was very difficult to find a compromise between the need for airport growth and residents' concerns.

He told the EADT: “The Government has decreed that Stansted has some room for developing its existing facilities before contemplating an additional runway.

“I don't think there is much point resisting the expansion given the existing parameters. It might even mean that there would be no need for the second runway and this would certainly be a solution.

“We are aware aircrafts are causing a problem for residents of south Suffolk who claim to be seriously affected by night flights and noise.

“The question is should business and the economy triumph over the person - and there are two diametrically opposing arguments.”

The current public consultation by the British Airports Authority (BAA) - entitled Growing Stansted Airport On The Existing Runway - is the most extensive carried out by bosses and outlines plans to increase passenger numbers from the current 21 million to the maximum capacity of 35 million by 2015.

The plans, which would still need to be rubber-stamped in a formal application to Uttlesford District Council, were described as “essential” by airport chiefs in the wake of expansions at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

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