Stansted: north Essex escapes the worst but threat of expansion still hovers
The announcement in June that the government was backing a third runway at Heathrow Airport made front-page news – and campaigners against Stansted expansion were of course relieved that the Essex airport didn’t feature in a story that has something of a never-ending feel to it.
Stansted had already failed to make the final round of potential expansions, the options having been whittled down to Heathrow and Gatwick in West Sussex, but members of Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) were nevertheless content to see confirmation of the position.
The proposed Airports National Policy Statement announced in the House of Commons by Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, on Tuesday, June 5, supports a new north-west runway at Heathrow, prompting the following response from Brian Ross, SSE deputy chairman:
“It kicks it into the long grass. It puts an end to the second runway at Stansted for a long time.”
Mr Ross, however, echoed the thoughts of many who wonder whether the planned Heathrow expansion will happen, given the anticipated legal challenges, in saying: “It cannot be assumed it is bound to happen.”
And, even if Heathrow is expanded as proposed, Stansted may still increase its capacity, the Essex airport having applied to increase the number of passengers there from 35 million a year to 43 million.
Its application was due to be heard by Uttlesford District Council on Wednesday, July 18, but the local authority has asked for more information.
With another consultation, at least one public meeting about the proposals and the revised description of the planning application, it is likely the airport’s plans will not be decided on for months.
In addition to increasing the passenger cap, these plans entail two new taxiway links to the existing runway, six extra remote aircraft stands and three additional stands to allow a combined airfield operation of 274,000 planes, of which no more than 16,000 would be cargo planes.
A UDC spokesman said: “The council has been examining the robustness of the evidence supplied within the application, particularly in relation to surface access, noise and air quality. Ongoing discussions are taking place with relevant stakeholders including Highways England, Essex and Hertfordshire county councils, Natural England and engaged consultants, and further work is being undertaken.
“Until this information is provided, and consulted upon, the council is unable to propose an alternative date for determination.”