Stansted expansion unnecessary

A CAMPAIGN organisation has accused Stansted Airport owner BAA of living in a “Walter Mitty world of make believe” after air passenger numbers there fell for the 15th consecutive month.

Roddy Ashworth

A CAMPAIGN organisation has accused Stansted Airport owner BAA of living in a “Walter Mitty world of make believe” after air passenger numbers there fell for the 15th consecutive month.

But yesterday a spokesman for the airport said that comments made by pressure group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) were “superficial” and failed to address serious long-term issues.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) claimed that five years of growth had been effectively wiped out by a combination of the economic downturn and BAA's 2007 decision to double Stansted landing charges to its biggest airline customers.


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BAA currently has proposals to hugely expand its capacity at Stansted, and a planning inquiry into the creation of a second runway there is due to begin in April.

But SSE said Stansted handled fewer flights last month than in any month in the past six years and that its estimates predicted this year the airport would handle just 155,000 flights - down 20,000 on current levels.

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The group said that as this is only half the capacity of the existing runway it showed BAA had a “fantasy-based business strategy” in pushing ahead with its plans for a second runway.

And the organisation announced it had written to the Secretary of State Hazel Blears calling for the Public Inquiry to be postponed, claiming that with Stansted Airport in such rapid decline there was “no conceivable reason for haste”.

But last night a BAA spokesman said it did not accept SSE's projected passenger forecast for the year, although it recognised that numbers were currently in decline due to the economic climate.

He added: “It's SSE who perhaps need to get in the real world when they comment on Stansted, the UK's third busiest airport.

“As we are all very aware, these are difficult and challenging economic times we all find ourselves facing today. And these conditions are not just affecting Stansted or the wider aviation industry, as we clearly see each day on the news and within communities up and down the country.

“In line with our forecasts, nearly 1.3 million passengers passed through Stansted during January.

“While there is likely to be some further decline in passenger number in the months ahead, we are expecting to see this dip hopefully level off later in the year.

“Nobody is forecasting a downturn in the economy forever, and as long as the economy is expected to grow in the medium and longer term, demand for air travel will grow with it, so we remain optimistic about a return to passenger growth here at Stansted.

“The development of a second runway is a long-term project necessary for the economic health and prosperity of the UK and the region to 2030 and beyond.

“SSE's arguments are superficial and opportunistic and fail to address a serious issue.”

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