No sooner had the appeal hearing about expansion of Stansted’s permitted number of passengers finished, than Govt announced a new target for cutting carbon emissions.
For the first time the target is to include International Aviation and Shipping emissions, casting UK airport expansion in a very different light.
The Government decision is in line with one of the key recommendations made by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) last December: namely a 78% reduction by 2035 of carbon emission compared to 1990.
Another key CCC recommendation is that there should be no further expansion of UK airport capacity unless and until the sector can demonstrate that it has reduced its carbon emissions sufficiently to accommodate expansion.
Since this announcement:
a) Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has written to the Planning Inspectors asking for the enquiry to be re-opened to hear further evidence on the significance of this policy change by Govt;
b) Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has written to the Secretaries of State for Local Government and Transport asking that the appeal should be determined by Govt as a matter of national significance, something SSE previously sought via judicial review but was declined;
c) Campaign groups at the eight major UK airports currently threatened by expansion have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick calling for an immediate moratorium on airport expansion on climate change grounds.
d) UDC is applying for judicial review.
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.
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 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.
The airport’s owners, Manchester Airport Group, appealed the decision and the appeal was heard at the beginning of 2021.