by Alan Dean on 17 November, 2018
Uttlesford’s planning committee has voted to allow the number of passengers using Stansted Airport to increase by over 50%. They claimed that this was necessary to help save the national economy from the effects of Brexit. The chairman of the committee had to break a tied five-all vote by using his casting vote to permit 43 million passenger a year. In voting for approval, Cllr Alan Mills said it was important to expand the airport so that the UK could “stand on its own two feet” after Brexit. He said that Uttlesford District Council had wider responsibilities than defending the local environment and people from the impact of a larger airport.
In reality, Manchester Airport Group’s approved runway improvements could accommodate well in excess of 50 million passengers; an airport the size of Gatwick.
Voting by the 10-member committee to reject the application came from one Conservative, one Liberal Democrat and three Residents for Uttlesford councillors. Votes to approve the application were cast by five Conservative councillors.
The committee failed to address many of the challenges put to it by over 100 people who spoke before it began its deliberations. Numerous issues raised by the public, district and parish councillors and the Stop Stansted Expansion community group at meetings over three days were left unanswered. The chairman admitted that. So why was a decision rushed through in less than four hours of discussion on one day only?
Little attention was paid to concerns about the airport’s impact on local road congestion. A paltry £800,000 was accepted from the airport to fix local road congestion, despite many protests that Essex Highways hasn’t even assessed properly what improvements will be needed. I doubt that £800,000 would even pay to prevent traffic in Stansted Mountfitchet alone from grinding to a halt and inflicting dangerous air pollution on its residents. So what hope can there be for Takeley, Great Dunmow, Bishop’s Stortford, Newport, etc., etc? This was all too much trouble for the committee to demand an answer. And carbon emissions and frightening climate change were for someone else to bother about!
A proposal to defer a decision until all outstanding issues had been answered was rejected. The result was a rushed, flawed and deeply divisive decision. It has done nothing to enhance the reputation of Uttlesford District Council.
UDC exists to defend the interests of the residents of this district. It does not exist to make decisions on behalf of the nation, especially in support of one so deeply divisive and potentially destructive as Brexit.
A properly conducted, thorough assessment of the airport’s commercial desires is needed. A public enquiry is needed. We must now await a decision from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, whether he will call-in UDC’s so that an in depth public inquiry can be conducted.