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London Stansted Airport Insists on Expanding Passenger Volume Amid Pandemic

An aerial view of London Stansted Airport (Photo: London Stansted Airport)

In response to the local government’s refusal to allow expansion, London Stansted Airport will appeal against the Uttlesford District Council, which handed down the ruling in January. After five years of consideration, Stansted wasn’t allowed to increase its passenger capacity numbers from 35 million to 43 million passengers per year.

According to the airport, Stansted is not going to increase the number of flights that are currently allowed, but it will provide an enhanced sound insulation scheme for the residential properties close to the airport.

“We’ve been listening to local communities over the last few years, and we used their feedback to shape our proposals to make best use of Stansted’s existing capacity,” Ken O’ Toole, CEO of the airport said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the lives of people across the country and on the UK economy, and it is crystal clear that aviation will play a critical role in the local, national and global economic recovery.”

Stansted Airport is the fourth busiest airport in the country and handled 28 million passengers last year. Stansted had requested and received permission for expansion from 25 million passengers to 35 million in 2008, but the airport capacity hasn’t been fully utilized.

The expansion scheme was approved by the Conservative Party-controlled Uttlesford District Council in 2018, but the program hasn’t been signed. The Conservative Party has since lost the majority in the council last year as the newly elected council turned down the original expansion program in relation to noise, air quality and climate change. In January, the council voted by 10 votes to none — with two abstentions — to overturn the original scheme.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), the anti-expansion group campaigning against the airport’s changes, said in an appeal the airport’s efforts are “callous, cynical and pointless.” Also, SSE believed Stansted should have no real “urgency” to raise its capacity because of the coronavirus and expected the passenger volume of the airport is only half of its capacity this year.

“The impact of COVID-19 raises fundamental questions about the need to approve further airport expansion at this time,” SSE said in a statement.

Earlier, Uttlesford District Council Leader John Lodge said, “Expanding Stansted up to the size of Gatwick is unnecessary.”

In addition, Stansted has put the new arrival terminal on hold while the council reviewed the expansion plan. The new terminal was set to open this year and cost 150 million pounds ($188 million).

In the meantime, Stansted is facing another setback. As a result of the COVID-19, EasyJet, the U.K. based low-cost carrier, is set to close the three bases in the country, and Stansted is among the selected airports.

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