October 10, 2008

Stansted Expansion Angers Green Lobby

Environmental campaigners reacted angrily yesterday to the Government's decision to allow a massive expansion in capacity at one of the UK's largest airports.

The number of passengers travelling through Stansted Airport is set to rise from 25 million to 35 million a year with the number of flights increasing from 241,000 to 264,000.

The announcement left green groups claiming the Government's climate change policy was a "shambles" and that ministers had promoted a "binge-flying" culture.

Conditions limiting the number of flights and passengers were imposed due to noise and environmental concerns by Uttlesford District Council in November 2006.

But Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon - in his first major decision since being appointed to the role in last week's Cabinet reshuffle - yesterday overruled the council following an appeal by airports operator BAA and a public inquiry.

Greenpeace senior transport campaigner Anita Goldsmith said: "Only this week the Government signalled that it will adopt a new tougher target to cut climate-trashing emissions, including those from aviation.

"But giving the green light to another 20,000 new flights from Stansted is in clear contrast to that commitment."

That view was echoed by Friends of the Earth's Tony Bosworth, who said: "Allowing 10 million more people to fly from Stansted each year shows the Government's climate change strategy is a complete shambles."

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker said: "This is further evidence that the Government is in the pocket of the aviation industry.

"It shows the gaping void between its environmental rhetoric and reality."

He said the decision showed Mr Hoon was "no friend of the environment".

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "We have always taken the view that Stansted could, with some important safeguards, handle more passengers with its existing runway.

"Nevertheless we are concerned about a number of issues particularly as it seems to have taken less than a week for Geoff Hoon to allow BAA to start writing Government aviation policy."

Tim Yeo, the Conservative chairman of the all-party Environmental Audit Committee, said: "It is the wrong decision. It is a bad decision environmentally for East Anglia and it is also wrong economically because the expansion of Stansted has depended on low- cost flights and the expansion of that type of flying."

A letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to BAA's lawyers, setting out the reasons for the change said nothing in their conclusions should be taken as "an expression of a view on the need for, or acceptability of" a future second runway at Stansted which is part of BAA's long-term plan for the airport.

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