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13 July, 2020 - 11:44 By Tony Quested

Stansted Airport fights council’s “flawed planning refusal”

Stansted Airport has decided to appeal the decision made by Uttlesford District Council’s Planning Committee to refuse the airport’s application to increase the current cap on passenger numbers from 35 to 43 million a year.

Stansted’s proposals could be delivered without any increase in the number of flights that are currently allowed and include a legally binding commitment to reduce the airport’s noise ‘footprint’ and an enhanced sound insulation scheme for residential properties close to the airport.

The application was rejected by the Planning Committee on January 24 despite having been conditionally approved by them in November 2018. Prior to both meetings, the council’s own officers and independent legal advisers had provided very clear advice to Planning Committee members, recommending that there were no grounds to refuse the application.

Later this month Stansted will formally submit an appeal to The Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Planning Inspectorate will then oversee a public inquiry before making its recommendation to Government.

Ken O’Toole, London Stansted’s CEO, said: “We’ve been listening to local communities over the last few years and we used their feedback to shape our proposals to make best use of Stansted’s existing capacity.

“As a result, the application we put forward would mean no increase in the number of flights that can operate from Stansted each year, and we committed to provide a comprehensive package of measures to benefit local people. 

“From our discussions with local communities, it is clear that the majority of local people support our proposals, and they welcome the airport’s commitment to maintaining the existing cap on the number of flights and to reducing the airport’s overall noise footprint.

“Since January, we have carefully considered the comments made by the Planning Committee, the strong case we made about environmental effects, alongside our assessment of the significant benefits that the future success of Stansted will deliver to the region. 

“In our view, the council failed to provide any credible or substantiated reasons to justify its decision to refuse the application. For this reason, we have decided to appeal the council’s decision. 

“It is regrettable that we have been put in a position of having to appeal, particularly in light of the clear advice the council’s elected members received from their own officers and expert legal advisers, but also because of the time and significant costs that will be incurred as a result of the appeal. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the lives of people across the country and on the UK economy and it is crystal clear that aviation will play a critical role in the local, national and global economic recovery.

“Our proposals have always been about growing Stansted in a sustainable way to support its vital role as the economic engine of the region, by responsibly managing its impacts and providing clarity for local communities.

“We are confident about the merits of our proposals and the prospects of securing the planning approval that will pave the way for Stansted to maximise its contribution to the success of the region it serves.”

Pete Waters, executive director, Visit East of England, rallied to the Stansted cause. He said: “London Stansted sits at the heart of the East of England and is the region’s gateway to the world, so Visit East of England was disappointed by UDC’s flawed decision which flew in the face of fact, opportunity and ambition.

“The airport’s decision to appeal the ruling is even more critical at a time when the East of England’s hospitality industry and the hundreds of thousands of people it employs, is suffering so badly from the effects of the pandemic.

“Repairing the economic damage must begin as soon as possible and by giving Stansted, its airlines, passengers and local communities clarity on the role the airport will play in doing this is a vital first step.

“This region must show it’s open for business and a growing and prosperous Stansted will be key to attracting more visitors to our fantastic region.”

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