Airport inquiry set to take20 months

A PUBLIC inquiry into a controversial second runway for Stansted airport could take up to 20 months to complete.

A PUBLIC inquiry into a controversial second runway for Stansted airport could take up to 20 months to complete.

Whether the inquiry will now start in April is today unclear - and it will be several weeks before secretary of state for communities and local government Hazel Blears decides what format it will take.

People from across the region - including a large number from Suffolk concerned at the extra noise and pollution thousands more jets flying over the county would bring - protested outside the pre-inquiry meeting against a fast-track inquiry.

During the eight-hour meeting, inspector Andrew Phillipson heard detailed representations from Stop Stansted Expansion, councils, Stansted airlines, airport owners BAA and others.

He will make his recommendations to government at the end of January.

The meeting heard an inquiry could take 144 to 200 sitting days - 15 to 20 months - significantly longer than the inspector's provisional view of six months.

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SSE also spoke against having several inspectors sitting at once hearing different objections because this could compromise the inquiry's fairness.

It was also argued the inquiry should be delayed to enable SSE's High Court appeal into the permission to expand on the existing runway to be decided, and the expected confirmation by the Competition Commission that Stansted should be sold.

Either issue could lead to the cancellation of the second runway inquiry.

Brian Ross, of SSE, said: “When SSE, Ryanair and EasyJet are all agreed that it would be illogical for the inquiry to start in April, Hazel Blears will hopefully take note. It's not often that such a consensus happens.”

Protester Maggie Sutton asked for an assurance that if BAA was forced to sell Stansted, the community would not have to go through the whole second runway process again under a new owner with a different set of plans.

“We've all had our lives turned upside down by these plans,” she said.

“You have your lives; we are ordinary people who want to get on with ours without all the blight and uncertainty of not knowing how this will all end.”

Should the number of passenger planes flying over Suffolk be increased? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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