Stansted campaigners vow to fight on

CAMPAIGNERS battling to stop the expansion of Stansted Airport vowed last night to fight on despite the Government's announcement of an extra runway.As residents acknowledged they had lost the battle but still hoped to win the war, the managing director of Stansted hailed the move as opening the door to long haul and transatlantic flights from the Essex airport.

CAMPAIGNERS battling to stop the expansion of Stansted Airport vowed last night to fight on despite the Government's announcement of an extra runway.

As residents acknowledged they had lost the battle but still hoped to win the war, the managing director of Stansted hailed the move as opening the door to long haul and transatlantic flights from the Essex airport.

Meanwhile, business representatives in Suffolk and Essex predicted a new runway would help bring millions of pounds into the region and could even boost tourism.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling revealed yesterday he wanted to see the runway completed by 2011 or 2012 to generate substantial benefits to the national economy.


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But the expansion would mean the loss of about 100 properties, including two ancient monuments – the site of Waltham Manor and the Grange – and 39 Grade II listed buildings.

In a 173-page aviation White Paper, Mr Darling signalled his backing for two additional runways in the south east – one at Stansted and the second at Heathrow.

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The Government claimed utilising the capacity for expansion at Stansted was essential to prevent stifled growth in aviation.

But the Stop Stansted Expansion group slammed his vision as "pie in the sky" – claiming the project was "undeliverable".

The group has fought a long battle since the proposals were first put on the table in July 2002.

Its chairman, Norman Meade, said: "The phoney war is over and now the real battle begins.

"It will not end until we have forced the abandonment of these pie in the sky proposals."

The campaign, which has support from former hostage Terry Waite and television chef Jamie Oliver, insists major national airlines such as British Airways are opposed to the expansion of Stansted.

The opposition was backed by environmental watchdog, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, which said it would fight "tooth and claw" against the new runway.

Chairman of the Essex branch, Susanne Walker, said: "It is absolutely ridiculous for a Government to encourage the population to destroy its soul, it is the heart of its culture.

"They will have to put in a planning application and it will be heavily resisted."

However, the news was welcomed by the managing director of Stansted Airport, Terry Morgan, who claimed it was now in "the big league".

He said: "Assuming we get planning permission and through the public enquiry, there will be a new runway by 2011 or 2012, and that puts Stansted into the big league and gives a great opportunity for the airport to offer a whole range of destinations to holidaymakers and business travellers.

"We stand a really, really good chance of attracting long haul and transatlantic carriers."

Mr Morgan acknowledged the airport was unlikely to win over British Airways because of the company's commitment to Heathrow, but said he believed there would be many airlines based overseas which would start to see the airport as a first choice in the UK.

He said: "British Airways wants to concentrate on Heathrow and all of their focus is going to be on Heathrow, but there are lots of others coming from outside the UK and Stansted will be a terrific alternative and first choice."

He said getting the runway completed by the target dates of 2011 or 2012 would be challenging and called for the Government to assist as much as it could with ensuring the process did not get bogged down in "endless legal battles".

Mr Morgan added improvements to plane engines meant noise levels were being reduced all the time and added the airport would be able to comply with the European limits on nitrogen dioxide levels.

He said the company was willing to sit down with campaigners opposed to the development to, "talk about their really major concerns and what we can do to address them."

Yesterday BAA chief executive Mike Clasper said: "Aviation is vital to the economic and

social well-being of the UK and we are pleased that the Government has taken such a long-sighted, strategic view in this White Paper.

"BAA identified four possible options for runway development in the south east and the Government has chosen two of them. At Stansted, we will proceed at once to draw up detailed plans and to examine the environmental impacts of a second runway.

"We will consult closely with the communities affected and address their concerns as sympathetically as possible."

The new runway would be about 2,450 metres to the east of the existing one affecting villages such as Great Easton and Bamber Green, where residents have vowed to fight on.

Mike and Jane Howson in the picturesque village of Great Easton will be nearly at the northern boundary of the extended airport and believe their home would be taken from them by a compulsory purchase order.

Mrs Howson, a company director, said the decision had been expected.

"I really don't think it will go-ahead, they have one hell of a fight on their hands – they have major airlines against it. We might have lost the battle but we have not lost the war, so we will fight on and hope that they will listen to us," she said.

Plans will now be drawn up for the airport although there will also be a need for improved rail links, including increased capacity on the West Anglia line and also on the M25, M11 and surrounding local roads.

The White Paper made it clear yesterday that development at Stansted would be subject to stringent noise limits.

However, Parliament will also be asked to remove the annual limit of 185,000 aircraft movements at Stansted.

Even without a new runway, growth at the airport should rise from nearly 19 million passengers a year to about 35 million.

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