More flights expected from airport

SPECULATION was growing today that government officials are about to announce a massive increase in the number of flights permitted from Stansted airport.

SPECULATION was growing today that government officials are about to announce a massive increase in the number of flights permitted from Stansted airport.

Airport owner BAA wants to increase the number of passengers allowed by ten million per year on 20,000 extra flights.

It is feared most of these - 50 a day - will fly in over Suffolk, adding to the noise already suffered by those living under the busy flightpaths.

The issue of using the current runway to its maximum capacity went to a public inquiry last year and was fought by campaign groups who say the airport is big enough now and should not be allowed to grow any further because of the impact on communities and the environment.

In the ten months since the inquiry finished, BAA has also lodged planning applications to build a second runway at Stansted - which will double the size of the airport and make it as big as Heathrow is today.

Industry experts believe transport secretary Ruth Kelly will announce in the next few days whether the current limit of 25 million passengers per year will be lifted - and many expect the expansion to get the green light.

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She is also expected to announce that the application for a second runway will go before a public inquiry - though that will not be a surprise considering the scale of the development.

The Department of Transport has so far not commented on the timescale for the decisions and says announcements will be made in due course.

However the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign remains confident the government will reject the ten million passenger per year growth.

Chairman Peter Sanders said: “BAA was wholly unconvincing in its efforts to persuade the inquiry that its proposed development would have no material effects on the community or the environment.

“This should not be a surprise because, if approved, it would be the equivalent, in terms of scale of operation, to adding Birmingham Airport on top of the Stansted Airport that we have today."

An inquiry on a new £2.3 billion runway - permitting growth to around 80m passengers - is unlikely to start before spring next year and take up to a year to complete.

A decision from government could take another 12 months and if the go-ahead is given it would still not be built until several years after approval.

Should Stansted be allowed to expand? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk