Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more

Airport crisis – “Don’t use that fire escape; we’ve not used it in an emergency before”!

by Alan Dean on 26 April, 2019

Last night’s Extraordinary Uttlesford Council Meeting motion to ask for councillors to take a further look in public at the details of the legal Planning Obligation (S.106) tied to airport expansion was defeated by 18 votes to 14. The meeting was akin to an imaginary airport emergency in which the bosses hadn’t a clue what they were doing. Those in charge of this fictional event directed the people towards the tried and tested emergency exit. The passengers all shouted “That way is straight into the fire; let’s go the other way”. The bosses replied: “But we’ve never used the other exit in a real emergency. Follow the way we escaped last time!” And they all perished.

So it was last night. The public and nearly half the councillors cried: “This is a bad deal. Let’s stop, check, think and review the deal before we complete the deal.” The Conservative bosses objected. “We’ve not done it that way before.” (Not true!) “We usually leave it to the bureaucrats. Why change a habit if it means we don’t have to think.” (They didn’t say the last bit!)

So, having spent several days trying to get beneath the surface of this DEED OF PLANNING OBLIGATIONS, I’m left with the firm opinion that the Tories are doing their best to let down the people of this district and beyond. I was told that the agreement contains higher rates of discounts for airport parkers who regularly use the train from Stansted Airport. That’s what the planning committee was told in November. I’ve searched. I’ve asked. The draft agreement is silent on higher discount rates.

The planning committee signed up to an agreement that would contain a revised (one would assume higher)  target for the proportion of passengers using public transport to and from the airport. The only figure in the draft agreement is lower than the 51+ percent using buses coaches and trains in recent years. Some obligation! “Please put more cars on local roads, Stansted Airport”, said Conservative-controlled Uttlesford District Council.

Last November the planning committee agreed that council officers would refuse the planning application unless Stansted Airport Limited signed a legal deal with penalty clauses for missed targets. First you have to find a target. Then you discover that the penalty is to sit on a committee to talk about the hard-to-find targets.

Now I’ve been to some useless committees with no teeth that felt like punishment. To claim that a toothless committee is a penalty challenge to a wealthy airport and a reassurance to local residents is akin to selling an airline ticket with no certainty the management have your interests at heart during a fire.

After my own investigations in the past week into this agreement, with the assistance of Stop Stansted Expansion, I fear we are witnessing a stitch-up. The planning committee was remiss in November not to require the agreement to be examined in detail by councillors once it had been written. Council officers will be making a serious error if they sign off a seriously flawed agreement on their own initiative alone.

And the local community will have been sold short and let down. The 18 Conservatives, who seemed last night unable to get their heads around what they were doing, should be ashamed of their laziness.

POST SCRIPT: At the close of Thursday’s meeting a second extraordinary meeting was demanded through a cross-party requisition (that I signed) for an examination of the legalities surrounding the present deal. The council’s chief executive had intended to conclude the planning application with the airport on Friday (today) by issuing the approval Decision Notice. That move was halted by the intended second council meeting. The second extraordinary meeting will not take place until after the local elections on May 2nd.

   Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>