Stansted inquiry begins

BANNERS and placards greeted people today at a public inquiry to decide phase one of an expansion programme protesters claim will turn Stansted into Britain's biggest airport.

By Richard Cornwell

BANNERS and placards greeted people today at a public inquiry to decide phase one of an expansion programme protesters claim will turn Stansted into Britain's biggest airport.

The protest was organised by the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) campaign, which is fighting proposals to allow ten million more passengers a year to use the airport.

Members of other airport communities facing expansion threats, including Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow, joined the Stansted protesters in a show of unity to highlight the damaging effects increased air travel is having on town and villages.

The inquiry will hear an appeal by airport owners BAA, who want to increase flights on its current runway from 241,000 to a maximum 264,000 a year and have the current cap of 25 million passengers a year lifted.

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

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The inquiry is not considering plans for a second runway.

Protesters argue the growth of Stansted will affect a wide area including Suffolk, with hundreds more flights a week going over parts of the county.

The Evening Star's Air Fair campaign has been highlighting the large growth in air traffic over the county - particularly the Ipswich and Felixstowe area - over the past few years, following changes to increase the capacity of the airspace.

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said the group was represented by barristers Paul Stinchcombe and Sarah Hannett and a team of expert witnesses and that they had a range of evidence from economics and employment to climate change and health impacts.

He said: “The absence of a final master plan for Stansted Airport makes it impossible to properly consider the present planning application in its wider context, namely, as the first stage of a BAA expansion plan which would lead to Stansted becoming bigger than Heathrow today, whether expressed in terms of site area, the number of flights or the number of passengers handled.”

A BAA spokesman said: “After a great deal of consultation and study by the government, aviation policy is very clear - the first priority is to make the best use of our existing single runway. We believe that we can do this with the minimum impact on the environment and maximum benefit to very many people.”

Is the noise from aircraft over Suffolk getting worse? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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