Stansted expansion plans not to be treated as NSIP, rules High Court
The High Court has decided that a planning application to increase passenger numbers at Stansted Airport does not need to be treated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
The announcement, made on Friday, February 7, that the Secretary of State for Transport does not have a statutory duty to treat the application as an NSIP follows the hearing of a case heard in the High Court in November last year by Mr Justice Dove.
The central legal issue was the statutory definition of an NSIP under the Planning Act 2008.
The High Court proceedings were started in August 2018 by Stop Stansted Expansion with the intention of ensuring the airport’s planning application for permission to grow to 43 million passengers a year (mppa) would be scrutinised at national level rather than dealt with by Uttlesford District Council.
The expectation had been that UDC would approve the planning application and SSE considered it important to have a second (legal) line of defence.
UDC did, provisionally, approve the application in November 2018, but that was overturned by the council’s new planning committee in January this year.
If Stansted’s owner, Manchester Airports Group, appeals against UDC’s refusal to grant permission for its expansion, the planning application would be examined at a public inquiry, with the Secretary of State making the final decision. To put it another way, the application would be decided at national level in any case.
SSE is yet to decide whether to seek leave to appeal the High Court decision.
Peter Sanders, SSE chairman, said: “We are considering our options because there are different procedures to be followed depending on whether this application ends up being dealt with through the traditional appeal process of a public inquiry or is designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
“The NSIP process would be less expensive and less resource-intensive than a public inquiry for both SSE and Uttlesford District Council.
“Regardless of how events unfold in the coming months and beyond, UDC’s rejection of these proposals for further major expansion at Stansted Airport has demonstrated the kind of resolve that we hope will be shown everywhere in future when an applicant seeks to ride roughshod over the health of the local community and in disregard of the climate emergency.”