Stansted - boom or bust?

STANSTED is set for phenomenal expansion in the next few years - the effects of which will ripple outwards to be felt across Suffolk. RICHARD CORNWELL visited Stansted Airport to find out about what its boom time will mean for us.

By Richard Cornwell

STANSTED is set for phenomenal expansion in the next few years - the effects of which will ripple outwards to be felt across Suffolk. RICHARD CORNWELL visited Stansted Airport to find out about what its boom time will mean for us.

MORE than 23 million passengers a year, currently fly in and out of Stansted Airport.

As if that figure is not staggering enough, when the airport's current runway is maximised to its full potential, it will add another ten million, and when a second runway is built it will bring the total to 68 million by 2030.

And that's bad news for Suffolk, which is on the direct flightpath to and from Europe - and will mean increasing numbers of planes in the county's skies.

Development of Stansted is taking place in two phases - Generation One and Generation Two.

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G1 is all about making the best use of existing airport capacity.

Current planning permission limits the number of passenger to 25m per year. Owners BAA have applied to remove this condition and to be allowed to increase flights from 241,000 to 264,000 a year.

It says this will mean around 35 million passengers using the airport by 2015.

It it entirely possible - eight million have been added in the last four years, and it expects to reach current capacity next year.

Uttlesford District Council has refused permission for the expansion and a public inquiry will be held.

Council leader Mark Gayler said: “The evidence is clear. The impact of the proposed increase in flights and passengers would have an unacceptable impact on noise levels, air quality and the overall quality of life.”

Stansted managing director Terry Morgan said “Effectively, the council is wanting to cap passenger numbers at the current level, which contradicts government policy and flies in the face of the interests of the record number of leisure and business travellers - tens of thousands of whom are local - who see Stansted as an affordable gateway to destinations and opportunities around the world.”

Now while that battle is being fought, applications have been lodged for G2 - the new parallel runway, 3,048 metres long and 2,200 metres to the south-east of the existing runway.

The £2.27 billion project is the key part of the government's determination to increase air travel.

The project would eat up another 1,160acres of countryside for taxiways, 42 aircraft stands and piers to provide access to and from planes, passenger terminal building, new control tower, more car parking, and improved public transport including better bus and rail stations.

But despite being launched with a fanfare, the reaction which has greeted the mammoth project has expectedly not been celebrations.

Uttlesford council is “totally opposed” to a second runway, declaring it would have a hugely negative environmental impact, as is the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) campaign.

Mr Gayler said expansion would place an unacceptable burden on roads and rail services. There would be irreversible harm to the countryside, and the growth of aviation will continue to add to global warming.

“This development would be an environmental disaster, both locally and globally,” he said.

Peter Sanders, chairman of SSE, said: “This battle will become a key test as to whether - in the full knowledge of the environmental damage that it would cause - we as a society attach greater importance to protecting tomorrow's environment or to meeting today's insatiable demand for ever more cheap flights.”

BAA though remains determined. Chief executive officer Stephen Nelson said the company stood by its “commitment to deliver the aviation policy outlined in the Government's White Paper.”

WEBLINK: www.stanstedairport.com/future

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Are you for or against the expansion of Stansted? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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Tomorrow brings the final part of this special series, as Paul Geater finds out what you can do to help offset the problems of increasing air travel in the future.

EVERY effort possible is made to ensure jet planes arriving at Stansted do not disturb the community surrounding the airport.

Some noise is inevitable if you live close to a major airport, but planes have to abide by certain take off and landing routes designed to keep the noise away from homes.

Of course, this does nothing to help communities further away who have to put up with noise in the sky above their homes - such as Felixstowe, Ipswich, Wickham Market, Sudbury, or the Dedham Vale.

Planes go in and out of Stansted on routes set to sweep to the south of Bishop's Stortford before turning north, or north of Harlow before turning. North of the airport, there are less urban areas but care is taken to avoid villages such as Thaxted, Great Dunmow and Stansted Mountfitchet.

Every one of the daily 500-plus flights is monitored by the airport's Flight Evaluation Unit (FEU), which examines each landing and take-off and investigates every complaint of noise. Sometimes planes complained about are not ones bound for Stansted, but investigations still take place.

Last year the airport received 19,470 noise complaints - though 15,130 were from six vociferous campaigners who monitor the planes all the time.

Noise communications manager Vicki Hughes said: “Every complaint is examined thoroughly by the FEU - through our computer mapping systems we can track down exactly which flight is being complained about and look at its flightpath and details to see if it was exceeding noise levels or breaking any rules.

“Planes which break the noise limits are fined £500 by BAA for being three decibels above the limit and can be fined £1,000 if they are even louder.”

The money is given to projects to reduce noise, such as insulation for schools and community projects. Companies with quieter aircraft also pay less landing charges.

“We work very closely with the campaign groups, such as Stop Stansted Expansion and others, because we recognise their concern and we want to do all we can to reduce aircraft noise,” she said.

Stansted is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It's popularity soared with the package holiday explosion of the 1960s. Today it serves over 23 million passengers a year.

It is the third busiest airport in the UK, 49th busiest in the world and is renowned for cheap flights.

Over 186,000 aircrafts from 41 airlines, depart and land at Stansted each year.

The planes from Stansted fly to over 160 destinations covering 35 countries across the world.

Stansted currently has one runway that is 3,048m long and 46m wide.

Source: Stansted Airport Guide

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