Decision day for Stansted Airport expansion plans
PUBLISHED: 01:00 14 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:25 14 November 2018
A 10-strong group of councillors will decide on plans to expand Stansted Airport at a crunch meeting today (Wednesday, November 14).
In the teeth of fierce opposition from campaigners Stop Stansted Expansion, but with strong backing from groups ranging from unions and workers to business organisations, an Extraordinary Planning Committee at Uttlesford District Council will meet at 10am to consider proposals by airport owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to raise its current 35m passenger number threshold by 8m without any increase in flights.
Bigger, more efficient and technically-advanced aircraft, combined with better passenger planning make this possible, Stansted chiefs will say, while at the same time bringing noise levels down.
Planners are recommending conditional approval of the plans, which Stansted argues will create jobs and boost the economy.
The fast-growing airport has seen its popularity soar in recent years. A 12-month rolling total for the number of passengers going through the airport now stands at more than 27.6m passengers, and is growing at a rate of 7% a year.
At current levels, experts believe it will reach its current 35k cap by the early 2020s, and could hit 43k later in the decade.
Airport chief executive Ken O’Toole, who will make the closing remarks on behalf of the applicant, is likely to stress the benefits of the plans for the region as a whole, including 5,000 more on-site jobs and an estimated £1bn boost to the economy, doubling its current gross value added.
Speaking as the airport recorded its busiest ever October with more than 2.5m passengers, he expressed delight at the large number of people who had spoken in support of the proposals at a series of public speaking sessions held in the run-up to the decision, and said it had built up some “real momentum” behind its vision for it.
“We are investing £600m to transform the airport facilities for passengers and we are determined to secure more long-haul services to destinations across China, India and the USA,” he said.
“This week we will find out if our planning application to increase passenger numbers to 43m a year within current flight and noise limits has been successful. A positive outcome will enable us to make best use of Stansted’s available airport capacity and sustainably deliver the next phase of the airport’s evolution.”
In an open letter, SSE chair Peter Sanders, whose organisation is opposed to the plans on a number of grounds, including environmental, noise and congestion, urged councillors to be “courageous and independently-minded” and not to be swayed by “party political or electoral considerations or by spin or propaganda”.
“Judge this application on the evidence and with due regard for your obligations to the local community – those who earn their living from the airport as well as those who suffer from its consequences,” he said.