Development Issues: Update August 2013

Stansted Airport
The Ickleton Society (originally named the Ickleton Preservation Society or IPS) was founded in 1981 to protect residents’ interests when the third London Airport at Stansted was in the planning stage.  Since then we have done what we could to oppose major expansion of Stansted which would greatly increase noise disturbance and blight the countryside of North Essex.  The Society has for a long time supported the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) organisation. 

You may have read recently about the increasing number of proposals for Stansted to be developed into a 4 runway hub that could grow to twice the size of Heathrow.  While there are many other suggestions as to how the UK might meet future aviation demand, it is nevertheless a worry that Stansted is viewed by some as an easy option.  They claim that impacts are so much less than at Heathrow because the countryside around Stansted is relatively sparsely populated. 

SSE has sent us an e-mail giving more detail about the current situation and what might happen.  We have reproduced the e-mail at the end of this note.  You will also find at the end of the e-mail, details of how you can join and support SSE.

Sawston and the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan
Many residents of Sawston and Babraham are unhappy about proposals in the South Cambridgeshire Local Development Plan for Sawston to increase in size by 540 houses (nearly 18%) over the next 20 years.  Of this, 30% lies within Babraham parish and 60% in the Green Belt.  Maps showing the sites are available on South Cambs website here.  Local concerns seem to centre on the scale of the increase, loss of Green Belt, traffic generation, accessibility to public transport, schools, the Health Centre and Sawston High Street, the ability of local infrastructure to cope with the increase in population.  Of course, if the houses don’t go there, they would, presumably, have to go somewhere else.

The Local Plan is now in its final consultation period and can be found here.  There is no change with regard to Ickleton which remains an infill village.  South Cambs District Council is staging a number of exhibitions about the plan and it will be at Spicers Pavilion in Cambridge Road, Sawston on Monday 2 September.  Any comments need to be submitted to the District Council by 30 September.

A New Supermarket?
Ruth Driver recently had an unsolicited call from a firm of market researchers and decided to take part in a short survey about her shopping habits.  This ended with her being asked if she would like a new supermarket between Saffron Walden and Sawston.  Remembering so well Tesco’s efforts to build Hanley Grange just up the road with a large supermarket at its heart, Ruth told them in no uncertain terms what she and the vast majority of local residents thought about that. 

Who is behind this latest move we don’t know but Hanley Grange is still fresh in our memories and almost certainly hasn’t gone away and neither has the idea of a major new development at Great Chesterford.  It is interesting that someone is trying to gather evidence in support of a new supermarket when the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan is out for its final consultation before being submitted to the Government Inspector and when Uttlesford are still apparently in disarray over its Local Plan.  If you get one of these calls it might be worth taking part in the survey just to tell them what Ickleton thinks of it.

E-mail from Stop Stansted Expansion
Dear Supporter

Just three years ago, after BAA had conceded defeat on its plans for a second Stansted runway, I was writing to you in this member letter asking for views on whether the time had come to disband SSE. 

Fortunately, the overwhelming response from our members was that we should not disband.  However, few of us could have imagined that just three years later plans would be back on the table, not just for one extra runway at Stansted, but for up to three extra runways so that it could replace Heathrow and be capable of growing to twice the size of Heathrow today. 

There are however some significant differences between the threat we currently face and the threat we faced a few years ago.  Let me try to summarise the current situation. 

In September last year, as a result of pressure from the aviation industry, the Government set up the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, to consider what, if anything, needs to be done to maintain the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.  If the Commission concludes that more airport capacity is needed it will produce a short-list of options by the end of this year and make its final recommendations two years from now, in mid-2015. 

Throughout this year the Airports Commission has been publishing discussion papers and inviting submissions from key stakeholders on the main issues it needs to consider.  SSE has so far made five submissions and is currently working on its sixth, in response to the Commission’s latest discussion paper. 

SSE was also invited to give oral evidence and make a presentation to the Commission on aviation demand forecasting and connectivity at a public evidence session held in Manchester earlier this month.  SSE’s submissions and presentation can be found on our website at http//:www.stopstanstedexpansion.com/airports_commission.html. 

As another part of its work the Commission invited airport owners/operators and others with an interest in expanding UK airports or building new ones to submit proposals in two stages: (a) options for making best use of existing airport capacity in the short and medium term, to be submitted by 17 May;  and (b) long term airport expansion options, to be submitted by 19 July. 

This may help explain the recent frenetic media coverage of proposals for more runways all over the place including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham and Cardiff as well as ideas for new airports in the Thames Estuary, North Kent, and the Bristol Channel.  It seems that almost everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, hoping to find favour with Sir Howard Davies and his commissioners.  Thus, Stansted is not alone in facing the threat of major expansion, and that is one of the key differences between the situation today compared to the situation we faced a few years ago, when it was only Stansted Airport which – with the Government’s support – had submitted a planning application for an additional runway. 

Nevertheless, we have to face the possibility that Stansted will be a short-listed option, either for a second runway or even for three more runways.  It is profoundly disappointing that Stansted’s new owners, the Manchester Airports Group have jumped on the bandwagon and asked for Stansted to be favourably considered either for one extra runway or as the location for the UK’s future hub airport, to replace Heathrow and be capable of handling a throughput of 160 million passengers a year.  By way of comparison, Stansted handled 17.5 million passengers last year, Heathrow 70.0 million, and the world’s busiest airport – Atlanta, USA – handled 95.5 million. 

We will of course be doing everything possible over the next few months to convince the Airports Commission to reject the idea of any new runways at Stansted.  It is currently operating at only half its permitted capacity and so a second runway – never mind a four-runway hub more than double the size of Heathrow today – is completely unnecessary on business grounds and it would be completely unacceptable on environmental grounds.  Even looking 15 years down the line and beyond, there is no logical case for Stansted to be one of the short-listed options. 

As we all know, however, these matters are not always determined on a logical basis.  Politics and other extraneous factors can often be more influential and, in this regard, we already have one major area of concern.  One of Sir Howard Davies’s team of five commissioners, Geoff Muirhead, is the former chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG).  He is the only member of the Airports Commission with first hand knowledge and experience of the aviation industry and he spent 24 years with MAG during which time he led the Group’s expansion policy and the construction of a second runway and terminal at Manchester Airport. 

As soon as we learned of Mr Muirhead’s appointment, on 2 November 2012, we raised the issue directly with him of a potential conflict of interest in the event that MAG succeeded in acquiring Stansted.  His response was that he had retired from MAG two years earlier and so there was no conflict of interest.  However, it transpired that was not the full story because he continued to be employed by MAG as an ‘ambassador’ at a salary of some £82,000 a year until January of this year, i.e. he was simultaneously a member of the Airports Commission whilst representing the interests of MAG.  He also benefits from a very substantial MAG pension. 

Up until now we have been pursuing this matter quietly, behind the scenes, with Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State for Transport.  We have written four times and we had hoped that by now Mr Muirhead would have voluntarily stood down from the Commission so as to avoid bringing into question the Commission’s independence and impartiality.  We have also taken legal advice on the matter, in the light of which we are surprised as well as disappointed that Mr Muirhead continues to serve as a member of the Airports Commission. 

Now that MAG is directly lobbying the Airports Commission for major expansion at Stansted, we believe there is far too much at stake to allow the position of its former chief executive on the Airports Commission to go unchallenged.  We therefore intend to give the Secretary of State and Sir Howard Davies one last opportunity to deal with the matter, failing which we intend to mount a legal challenge.  We believe that we have a duty to the community we represent to ensure that the issues are examined – and seen to be examined – entirely impartially and independently. 

We hope you will support this line of action.  I should perhaps also explain that, legally, “what an informed potential objector must not do is to wait and see if the outcome of the proceedings is favourable or unfavourable before raising his objection.” 

Finally, this brings me – inevitably – to the question of funding and support for our campaign.  We currently have a reasonable war chest but this could quickly start to disappear if we are short-listed and the battle heats up.  If you would like to help you can find a donation form at http://www.stopstanstedexpansion.com/donation.html

It is also important that we maintain and build SSE’s membership base because this will give us a stronger voice.  If you are not already a full member or if you are able to encourage friends and family to join you can find an SSE application form at http://www.stopstanstedexpansion.com/form.html.  Do please help if you can. 

Many thanks for your ongoing support. 

Yours sincerely 

Peter Sanders
Chairman


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