All change at Uttlesford. And at Stansted, too?
As most must now be aware, last month’s local-government elections saw some extraordinary results, one of the most remarkable of which occurred right here in the Tory heartland of Essex, where the Conservatives lost control of Uttlesford District Council to the Residents’ Association.
CPRE Essex always takes a politically neutral stand, but the Tories’ loss of 19 seats and the RA’s gain of 17 (the Liberal Democrats and the Independents gained one each) cannot go without mention.
The RA now holds 26 of the 39 Uttlesford seats, with the previously dominant Conservatives incredibly having just four.
The mess over Brexit was of course cited as a factor across the country, but in Uttlesford it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the continued development of Stansted Airport played a significant part in events.
Last month (May) we reported that, although the airport’s bid to increase passenger numbers to from 35 million to 43 million a year had been backed by the district council’s planning committee (courtesy of the chairman’s casting vote), political manoeuvring resulted in confirmation by the full council being delayed to allow for examination of the draft Section 106 agreement relating to the expansion (see here for details).
With the council now having a very different hue, attitudes to Stansted might be similarly altered.
A statement from Stop Stansted Expansion said: “An electoral tsunami swept through Uttlesford as the local community left no doubt as to its dissatisfaction with the incumbent administration.
“The Conservatives retained just four out of their 24 seats, making this proportionately the largest loss by any ruling party in any district council in the entire country.
“The five members of the council’s planning committee who voted in favour of the Stansted Airport planning application last November are no longer councillors, whereas the five who voted against were all re-elected.
“The leader of Uttlesford District Council sought to blame Brexit, but it was far more than that.
“This was a deeply unpopular administration which attached greater priority to the commercial interests of Manchester Airports Group [owner of Stansted] than to the well-being of local residents.
“There is no doubt that the controversial Local Plan was another reason for the catastrophic losses suffered by the Conservative group.
“Many of the members of the public who spoke out on behalf of their communities at recent council meetings to voice their concerns about airport expansion and other matters have now been elected as full members of the council, replacing those who refused to listen. Stop Stansted Expansion congratulates all of them and looks forward to re-establishing a constructive dialogue with the council.”
Peter Sanders, SSE chairman, said: “I very much regret the fact that our relationship with UDC has been strained in recent times as a result of the council’s mishandling of the current Stansted Airport planning application.
“We now have a change of administration and I am optimistic that this will allow us, once again, to have a cordial and business-like relationship with the council. This is an opportunity for a fresh approach.”
Monday, June 10, 2019