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UK High Court dismisses London Stansted planning challenge

Posted: 10 February 2020 | | No comments yet

An appeal by Stop Stansted Expansion to have the airport’s planning application determined by Central Government has been officially dismissed.

UK High Court dismisses legal challenge for London Stansted planning

Credit: London Stansted Airport

A High Court Judge has officially dismissed an appeal by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) to have the airport’s planning application determined by Central Government.

The proposal would see London Stansted Airport (STN) increase the number of passengers it can serve to 43 million per year without increasing the number of flights already permitted.

The application was first put forward in February 2018 and submitted for local consideration to Uttlesford District Council (UDC). The UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, confirmed that it did not qualify as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), and that Uttlesford District Council was the right body to determine the application.

The decision was subsequently challenged by Stop Stansted Expansion in a Judicial Review brought against the Department for Transport (DfT) in August 2018 and the case was heard in the High Court in November 2019. The ruling, made by Justice Dove, dismissed the claim on both grounds that were brought by the challenge:

  • That the proposed development would have resulted in an increase of over 10 million passengers per annum in Stansted’s capability, falling within the scope of section 23 of the Planning Act 2008 and be considered an NSIP
  • Even if the proposed development at Stansted Airport does not satisfy the NSIP criteria set out in section 23 of the Planning Act 2008, the DfT should have exercised discretionary power to treat the development as an NSIP and therefore subject to a special planning process.

London Stansted Airport’s spokesperson said: “We welcome this unequivocal dismissal of Stop Stansted Expansion’s appeal. This judgement confirms what we, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, communities and local government have said all along – that this application does not raise matters of national significance and should be dealt with and considered properly as any other local planning application.”

Uttlesford District Council’s Planning Committee initially approved the application in November 2018. However, May 2019’s local elections saw the new administration vote to return the application to its Planning Committee for further consideration. In January 2020, members of the committee ignored the advice of its own officers and legal experts and refused the application, citing concerns around air quality, noise and climate change.

The spokesperson continued: “The judgement endorses the government’s policy on ‘Making Best Use’ of existing runways, which ensures that aviation’s carbon emissions are managed in a joined-up way at a national level. We are disappointed at Uttlesford District Council’s recent refusal of the application, which would have enabled the airport to serve more passengers without any increase in the permitted number of flights and with a noise footprint that’s 15 per cent smaller than our current operations. We will now be taking this judgement into account as we consider our next steps.”

As well as dismissing the claims outlined by Stop Stansted Expansion, the High Court ruling also raises serious questions over the way Uttlesford District Council handled the climate change matters relating to the application.

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