Stansted second runway inquiry date set

PLANS to create a controversial second runway at Stansted Airport will be examined in April next year, it has been revealed.

Elliot Furniss

PLANS to create a controversial second runway at Stansted Airport will be examined in April next year, it has been revealed.

The airport's owners BAA want to build the second runway to increase the number of flights in and out of the north Essex site but residents and politicians have opposed the plans.

Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield said planning inspectors had agreed to move the start of the public inquiry into the application back from January to April 15.

Lord Hanningfield, a member of the Councils Opposed to Second Runway Group (CO2), said it had made a case to inspectors that extra time should be given before the start of the inquiry to allow for “more thorough environmental and technical examination”.

The four local authorities now have until mid-October to submit their outline statements after CO2 commissioned a number of independent experts on aviation, environmental and economic issues to independently test and research BAA's assessment.

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Lord Hanningfield said: “This rescheduling of the public inquiry is good news for all those who agree with us that a fair chance needs to be given for those who believe there is a sound case for refusing planning permission for BAA's proposals.

“A second runway at Stansted would lead to the destruction of acres of ancient woodland and countryside.

“We will be working very hard between now and April to make the environmental and technical case the Stansted G2 plan would have a serious impact on our residents' health and way of life and should therefore be discontinued.”

The proposals put forward by BAA mean flights from Stansted would almost triple to 70 million passengers a year from the current 23.2 million passengers.

The number of aircraft movements would increase from the current 200,000 to 495,000.

A separate application to increase the number of passengers allowed to use the existing runway from 25 million to 35 million is currently being considered.

Government officials are unlikely to make a decision on the second runway until 2011 and the recent recommendation by the Competition Commission that BAA sell off Stansted had left question marks over whether it would be followed through.

But last night a BAA spokesman said it welcomed the extra time given by inspectors and was still “pushing ahead” with the second runway plans.

He said: “We're looking forward to giving our case at the inquiry and all the facts can be put forward.”