Stansted airport expansion plans

The application to further expand Stansted airport is currently being heard by Uttlesford District Council Planning Committee.

Day 1 of the hearing was yesterday, 17th January, where Parish Councils and members of the public were given opportunities to speak. The second and final day will be on Friday 24th January at the Council offices in Saffron Walden. This second day encompass presentations by Stop Stansted Expansion and the airport itself.

Following a debate by Committee members, it will end with a vote. Full details here. The meeting is open to members of the public.

Cllr Andy Bennett represented Felsted Parish yesterday, making the following statement:

Good morning I am Andy Bennett, Chair of Felsted Parish Council Planning Committee.

We are objecting to this application.

Today you are invited to consider if there have been any new material considerations or changes in circumstances.

I propose that there most certainly have been and will cover 4 of the most important ones.

Firstly, under numbers of flights

The application stated that there would be no increase in flights, as allowed by the current planning approval for 274,000 flights a year. 

Whilst technically true, it is morally corrupt.

Stansted airport itself projects that fewer than 227,000 flights would be needed for the current limit of 35 million passengers and cargo.

If you approve this new single passenger and cargo total of 274,000 flights, you will release a true increase of 47,000 flights a year.

Correspondence suggests that even Cllr Alan Mills, the previous Chair of the Planning committee, who provided 2 of the votes to approve the original application, perhaps did not see that approval would lead to a real life increase in flights.

When combined with MAG trimming off a year from the forecast numbers to keep the application away from central government, this sleight of hand is a scandal and should cause you to consider it a material consideration.

Secondly, Under Aircraft noise

The application relied on a forecast reduction in noise contours and the promise of 50% quieter aircraft.

The Cole Jarman noise report first assumed 80% of planes would be new quieter aircraft, later they reduced this to 50% as a claimed typo.

With Boeing’s order book suggesting a sub 30% level, even this 50% was clearly beyond possibility.

More importantly, they also assumed the use of quieter B737 MAX aircraft, the entire fleet of which is now grounded indefinitely.  

Whilst the airport takes the only defensive position it can, claiming that this has all been scheduled into the noise forecasts, their noise reduction forecasts are now implausible and a material change in circumstances.

Thirdly, regarding environmental considerations

In August 2019 UDC declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency and committed to make the authority carbon neutral by 2030.

MAG’s own figures project that, with this application, CO2 emissions (excluding road traffic impacts) would increase, from 1.56 million tonnes in the Base Year, by an additional million tonnes a year in 2028.

You cannot simply pick and choose which bits of carbon dioxide you are going to count. Buying a few electric vehicles for the Council, whilst approving the release of a million tonnes a year of Co2 into the air around Stansted, is missing the point entirely.

In making his casting vote to pass the original application, the Chair of Planning summed up that he was doing so in support of the next generation.

If the Extinction Rebellion movement and the one girl crusade which is Greta Thunberg, are telling us anything, it is that the youth of today don’t want cheap flights to Spain, they want breathable air and a world with a future in which to raise their children.

In approving this application in the name of the youth of today, I have a feeling Greta Thunberg may well respond with ‘how… dare… you…’

This must be considered a change in circumstances.


Fourthly, you want to build 3000 new houses as part of the WoB development. At the Inspector’s review of UDC’s Plan, Alistair Andrew, MAG’s Head of Planning, in responding to a point I made regarding emerging Government guidance concerning planes not overflying densely populated areas at under 7000 feet, stated that he agreed the area designated for WoB was impacted by runway 04 flights and that in his opinion all houses should be marketed as being under a flightpath.

Adding in the new WHO guidance, calling for a dramatic reduction in acceptable noise levels for communities, and you can’t have it both ways. Even if it survives the Local Plan process, you can’t build houses in the WoB area, under the flightpath, and still approve this application, releasing 47,000 flights.

This emerging government and WHO guidance must be considered a new material consideration. 


In summary

I have demonstrated that there are at least 4 new material considerations and changes in circumstances:

No-one denies that Stansted is an important local resource, but MAG needs to respect and to respond to the concerns from the communities their business impacts, and currently they do not.

Against falling passenger numbers, this application is being rushed through in advance of the introduction of new noise regulations which would govern it, just like the 2016 flightpath change, forced through 12 months before tighter regulations on changes to flightpaths were introduced.

This is wrong.

I urge you to do what the failed and rejected previous Conservative administration did not, listen to your community, do what is right, and reject this application.

Thank you