In January 2020, UDC’s Planning committee overturned a controversial vote made 14 months earlier that gave a green light for Stansted to grow by 53% of its current passenger throughout. That would have meant growing to roughly the size of Gatwick today.
The original decision in favour was 5-for/5-against and tipped by the chairman’s casting vote. It was highly controversial and undoubtedly played a part in the landslide shift in control from Conservatives to Residents at the May 2019 elections. One of the new council’s first decisions was to revisit the evidence on which the vote had been made.
UDC does the right thing
The cross-party Planning Committee decided that new evidence on noise, air quality and the realities of climate change were sufficient to reverse the original decision. The committee pointed out that the airport has existing permission to increase to 35 million passengers, which would probably take another 15-20 years. But for Stansted to be allowed to grow to 43million passengers would make a mockery of Govt CO2 reduction targets and fly in the face of UDC’s own Climate Change & ecological priorities.
Need or greed?
Does Stansted “need” to grow to 43million passengers? There has been a mad dash by airports to ramp up their permissions and grab market share before Govt gets it act together on aviation. Stansted says huge levels of investment require certainty; but so do the people affected by the airport. Where is the certainty that their lives will not be increasingly blighted and their health compromised?
Soon after UDC’s historic decision, Bristol Airport and Southampton Airport had their expansion plans turned down turned down followed by the Court of Appeal’s rejection of a third runway at Heathrow because it failed to take into account the Government’s responsibilities to meet climate change targets.
As mentioned earlier, Stansted has existing permission to increase to 35million passengers per annum. Compared to the airport’s 2019 throughput of 28million that represents a 25% growth, which is exactly what the Govt’s advisory body, The Committee for Climate Change, says is the maximum sustainable level of aviation growth. So perhaps the airport’s owners should be content with what they already have.
The way aircraft noise is monitored in the UK “seriously underestimates” the disturbance it causes, suggests a new report, Flight Blight: the Social and Environmental Cost of Aviation Expansion, which was commissioned by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Some European countries, such as the Netherlands, start measuring plane noise at 45 decibels (dB), as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but the UK starts at 55dB. Noise impact is logarithmic, so reducing from 55db to 45db almost halves the impact. As well as reducing the noise-reporting threshold, the report recommends the government should commission independent research into the impact of aviation noise on health.
Inhalation of ultra-fine PM2.5 particulate matter from combustion engines is linked to heart attacks and respiratory disease. An annual study by the Centre for Cities think-tank has found that more than one in 19 deaths in the UK’s cities and towns can be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution. The British Lung Foundation said the number of deaths doesn’t tell the full story in terms of the millions of people whose lives are affected on a daily basis. Particulates from aircraft engines have been detected up to 14 miles from airport runways.
At the time of posting this article the airport’s owners, Manchester Airport Group, have not filed an appeal.