Stansted airport expansion ‘unwanted and unviable,’ says Essex council

Essex County Council has commented that the plans to expand Stansted Airport into a four-runway ‘super-hub’ were ‘unwanted and unviable,’ according to a report by the BBC.

In July, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted Airport, submitted its expansion plans to the government-appointed Airports Commission, headed by former Financial Services Authority chairman, Sir Howard Davies. MAG’s proposal calls for an additional runway that could increase Stansted’s capacity to 70 to 90 million passengers a year, or the building of a GBP10bn ‘hub’ with four runways with a capacity of up to 160 million passengers.

Charlie Cornish, MAG’s chief executive, has said previously that developing Stansted would be a ‘pragmatic approach.’

The airport said the Hub proposal was one of ‘a number of long-term options.’ ‘We can double the number of flights today by 130,000 without any need for significant investment in new infrastructure, and have submitted a number of long-term options for consideration by the Airports Commission,’ an airport spokesperson said.

Council leader, David Finch, has now told the Airports Commission that the super-hub plans were ‘completely unacceptable to Essex residents.’

Finch said: ‘The UK does not have the time or the money to waste on unpractical or undeliverable schemes that could suck up a sum of taxpayer’s money equivalent to twice the UK’s defence budget. Any proposal for a giant super-hub airport at Stansted is completely unacceptable to the council and Essex residents.’

He added: ‘If ministers in London do impose further capacity on our airport, they need to know that a bill comes with that. We would need assurances that the environmental impact would be minimised and that there would be massive investment in road and rail infrastructure for Essex.’

Peter Sanders, Stop Stansted Expansion chairman, has alleged earlier that the MAG proposals had been ‘framed’ in an ‘unenthusiastic, half-hearted way.’ ‘We will be doing everything possible to convince the Airports Commission to reject the idea of any new runways at Stansted,’ he said.

The council has told the commission that it favours ‘sensible growth’ and agrees that additional runway capacity is ‘likely to be inevitable in the long term.’

The Airports Commission will consider MAG’s proposals for Stansted alongside expansion proposals it has received for Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham, and plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

The commission is due to produce a shortlist by the end of the year and will offer its final recommendations in two years’ time.