R4U provides an update on Stansted Airport expansion and recommits to striking ‘fairer deal’ with Airport

Stansted Airport is considered ‘national infrastructure’ and so any decision to grow it should not be taken lightly; it should be properly evidenced. The previous Conservative controlled Uttlesford District Council (UDC) approved the expansion, and in the final act of its administration it sought to issue the final approval notice. However opposition parties worked together to delay the issuing of the approval until after the May local elections. Local party Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) was elected to run UDC in those elections. As part of its manifesto, R4U committed to trying to strike a better deal with the airport’s owners.

UDC recently postponed an Extraordinary Council Meeting (ECM) meeting about the airport expansion and local campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) asked what has been going on and why the meeting was delayed.

John Lodge (R4U)John Lodge (R4U)

Cllr John Lodge, chair of Residents for Uttlesford and leader at Uttlesford District Council said “Anyone who has been following the Airport expansion process will know that Residents for Uttlesford is deeply unhappy with the how the previous Conservative administration handled the planning approval, as are other parties and many residents. The airport is a business. Any expansion needs to be balanced by their responsibilities to the environment, local communicates, and transport infrastructure. By hurrying through the approval right before the local election, we believe that the Tories got it wrong. What they negotiated from the airport was barely adequate – in effect they favoured big-business over corporate responsibility. We need to find a way to get a better deal for local communities. Just before the election we and other parties at UDC managed to use a technicality to delay the issuing of the final approval notice. While it doesn’t change the fact that the Conservatives already pushed through the expansion, it buys the new council a little time.”

R4U’s Cllr Lodge continued “A council can’t just reverse a previous decision because they are unhappy with it. Planning is what is called a semi-judicial process. That means any council is legally required to objectively use evidence as the basis of any planning decision. The recent public meeting was delayed so the council could continue to review new evidence. During the last two weeks I, councillors and officers have worked hard with UDC’s own legal team and an independent QC to find a way forward. As part of the process it is important to note that I have spoken at length with various organisations, including SSE to understand where they think the flaws were in how the Conservatives undertook the approval. We needed to delay the Extraordinary Council Meeting until we have concluded that process.”

Cllr Lodge concluded “If the independent QC’s advice proves that UDC has no legal basis to reverse the decision, then disappointingly, the council will be forced to issue the final approval notice. That then gives SSE the opportunity to launch a Judicial Review against the previous Conservative administration’s decision. Irrespective of any outcome we remain committed to finding a way to strike a fairer deal with the airport. Residents need them to be a good neighbour.”

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