London Stansted airport’s CEO has said they will appeal after being refused planning permission to increase the current cap on passenger numbers from 35 to 43 million a year.

Ken O'Toole, the CEO of London Stansted Airport. Picture: London Stansted AirportKen O'Toole, the CEO of London Stansted Airport. Picture: London Stansted Airport

The application was rejected by Uttlesford District Council’s Planning Committee in January.

The group Stop Stansted Expansion has branded the appeal move as “callous, cynical and pointless” and urged the applicant to respect the council’s ruling.

Later this month London Stansted’s owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG) will formally submit an appeal to The Planning Inspectorate, who will oversee a public inquiry before making a recommendation to Government.

Ken O’Toole, London Stansted’s CEO, said: “From our discussions with local communities, it is clear that the majority of local people support our proposals, and they welcome the airport’s commitment to maintaining the existing cap on the number of flights and to reducing the airport’s overall noise footprint.

“Since January, we have carefully considered the comments made by the planning committee, the strong case we made about environmental effects, alongside our assessment of the significant benefits that the future success of Stansted will deliver to the region.

“In our view, the council failed to provide any credible or substantiated reasons to justify its decision to refuse the application. For this reason, we have decided to appeal the council’s decision.”

Mr O’Toole added: “Our proposals have always been about growing Stansted in a sustainable way to support its vital role as the economic engine of the region, by responsibly managing its impacts and providing clarity for local communities.”

David Birch, Director of Policy for Essex Chambers of Commerce, said they supported the decision to appeal.

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“Enabling the airport to grow to its full potential will allow it to compete with confidence and certainty with airports not only in the UK but around the world to win new business and provide even better connectivity which in turn will help drive the ambitions of businesses across Essex and the wider region.”

Mark Barter, regional officer for Unite, which has more than 2,500 members at the Essex airport, also supports the appeal.

“We need to plan for the post-pandemic economy and Unite views Stansted’s expansion as an economic building block in the years ahead in terms of economic growth and job creation.

“Hopefully, this appeal will give the airlines the confidence to invest in Stansted, rather than adopting the short term approach of shedding jobs which is currently the case.”

An Uttlesford District Council spokesperson said they had resources to defend the decision.

“The council is aware of MAG’s intention to appeal against the refusal of planning permission in January.

“Once it is formally submitted, the council will deal with the appeal in accordance with the government’s planning processes.”

Peter Sanders, chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion said: “It is the height of cynicism for MAG to insist all along that its planning application should be determined locally and then, when it does not obtain the result it wants, to appeal to the Secretary of State to set up a Public Inquiry, aimed at overturning the local decision. MAG chose the playing field and it should therefore respect the democratic verdict of our local council.”

Mr Sanders added: “Following the UDC refusal on January 24, MAG had (in law) six months to appeal and stated yesterday that it will submit its appeal ‘later this month’. In other words, MAG is leaving this to the last possible moment. A Public Inquiry would mean that the final outcome might not be known for another 18 months and could cost our local council up to £1.7 million. In the current circumstances, clearly there is tremendous pressure on local finances and there are far more important priorities.

“By prolonging the uncertainty in this way and forcing an enormous cost burden upon local council taxpayers, MAG shows a callous disregard not only for local democracy but also for the local community, who deserve some peace of mind, not a constant threat from an airport with an insatiable appetite for expansion.”