Cross-party push to delay ‘mishandled’ Stansted Airport Expansion final approval until after election

There is cross-party support for a delay in the final approval for the Stansted Airport Expansion until after the local elections in May following concern that mishandling of the planning process has exposed UDC to legal challenge and financial risk.

In 2018 Stansted Airport secured outline planning approval from Uttlesford District Council to significantly expand airport capacity to the same size as Gatwick. The expansion is subject to a Judicial Review by the Stop Stansted Expansion group (SSE). There have also been complaints about how the UDC administration handled the planning process, which is now also subject to a formal review.

As a result this week Residents for Uttlesford and the Liberal Democrats at UDC have jointly asked UDC delay the final planning approval Decision Notice until after May’s local council elections.

Garry LeCount (R4U) Garry LeCount (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr Garry LeCount, a district councillor for nearby Elsenham and Henham villages, said “Forty parish councils and 1,000s of residents have objected to the airport expansion. The UDC leadership have stated that they intend to issue the final approval Decision Notice in the next few weeks. Election law doesn’t allow important decisions like this to be made in the 6 weeks before an election. What the UDC leadership is attempting to do is highly irregular and we don’t like it.”

“There are unresolved concerns that the whole thing has been mishandled. These include legal and oversight issues, and it is now subject to a formal Scrutiny Review. SEE have launched a Judicial Review. These must be allowed to follow proper process before the final decision is issued.”

Cllr Garry LeCount added “What’s more councillors on the Planning Committee have been blocked from seeing the legal agreements that bind the airport to pay for upgrades to our roads and railways. It will take an estimated £1.2billion to upgrade our infrastructure to be similar to Gatwick’s, so these discussions must be transparent so we can all see what is being demanded from the airport.”

R4U’s Garry LeCount concluded “Because the UDC leadership is trying to rush things through while things are unresolved, we have initiated cross-party action with the Lib-Dems to try to prevent it. Our 11 signatories are enough to force a council Extraordinary Meeting to take the decision away from the UDC leadership. But Conservative Council Leader Howard Rolfe is still determined to force it through and so far failed to agree the meeting. He’s said publicly that he would not be ‘bullied’ into delaying the approval by any external organisations, including SSE. His actions have exposed the council to huge legal and financial risks. If elected to run UDC in May R4U will do things differently. We will review the entire planning process and we have already committed to a fairer more transparent deal with the airport.”

About Residents for Uttlesford

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) is the local independent party of north-west Essex towns and villages. Formed in 2014 by a number of residents’ groups, the party believes that on local issues residents should decide, not Westminster parties.

R4U leads Uttlesford District Council (UDC). It is the fastest growing local political movement in its district. In its first election in 2015 it became the second party at UDC. In 2017 it solidified its position with a further by-election gain with 60% of the vote. In the May 2019 Local Elections R4U gained majority control of UDC winning two-thirds of the seats. The result delivered the biggest loss of seats by any UK Conservative controlled council in the UK.

R4U’s success has been based on the desire to give local people a voice and implement long range strategic and sustainable plans for their area.

R4U also leads Saffron Walden Town Council, where under its stewardship the council has rebuilt finances, invested in community assets, and won multiple awards, including the best run council in Essex. It is a minority party on Great Dunmow Town Council.

Residents for Uttlesford can be found on the web at www.residents4u.org.