Fresh war of words on airport expansion

By Sharon AsplinTHE company that runs Stansted Airport has rounded on criticisms from runway protesters, damning their latest campaign tactics as "opportunistic".

By Sharon Asplin

THE company that runs Stansted Airport has rounded on criticisms from runway protesters, damning their latest campaign tactics as "opportunistic".

Stop Stansted Expansion has condemned BAA for delivering thousands of leaflets to residents in the days before the festive break, implying a second runway at the Essex airport was already decided.

The leaflet, which follows the Government's endorsement of the proposal for an extra runway there, was accompanied by a covering letter from Terry Morgan, managing director of

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Stansted Airport.

Protesters claim it was BAA's first salvo in a campaign aimed at undermining opposition in the villages near Stansted Airport to its expansion plans.

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However, BAA insisted it was only doing all it could to be a good neighbour and keep the affected residents informed.

Norman Mead, chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion, said: "We thought they might have had the good grace to wait until after Christmas before launching their campaign.

"I think it's disgraceful to try to frighten people in this way by implying that the battle is over before it has even properly begun."

Although the Government's White Paper endorsed the idea of a second runway at Stansted Airport, it is a strategic document and any scheme would have to be subject to the usual planning considerations.

"At most, it's an amber light, not a green light. BAA knows very well that this project faces enormous legal, regulatory, planning, environmental and economic obstacles and may never see the light of day," added Mr Mead.

The campaigners were also critical of the BAA early buy-out scheme offered to residents living in homes and listed buildings that would be obliterated to make way for an expanded airport.

"It is a pathetic sop which only hardens the Stop Stansted Expansion resolve to defeat these plans", said Mr Mead.

But a BAA spokesman countered: "Whatever we say or do we will never satisfy the Stop Stansted Expansion group whose reaction to the announcement has been typical and opportunistic.

"As a responsible neighbour, we believe we did the right thing in providing as much information as we could, as soon as we could, to reduce the uncertainty that local people will have been feeling about the impact of a new runway on their homes.

"What would have been irresponsible would have been to defer contacting our neighbours until after the holiday period if we already have news to give them reassurance."

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