** Updated ** March 2010
BAA says it is ‘fully committed’ to pushing 2nd runway plans forward – threatening to bring a possible 3 additional years to this already 8 year period of uncertainty. Read BAA’s reply to the Secretary of State’s letter.
The latest news about Stansted could see BAA literally going back to the drawing board when it comes to their second runway plans.
Last week began with a welcome announcement regarding airport expansion in the UK. On Tuesday the new owners at Gatwick were promising not to consider a second runway there until at least 2019. Although a new runway isn’t technically an available option until then anyway, this at least reassured interested parties like us that the ancient woodland surrounding the airport might be safe for a while longer – although we remain on our guard, as do the community-led Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign who are also our coalition partners in Airport Watch. The Gatwick sale was forced by last year’s Competition Commission decision to break up BAA’s monopoly.
At Stansted, however, the fate of 6 ancient woodlands remains undetermined. On Wednesday, fresh from an Appeal against the Competition Commission’s decision that they must also sell Stansted as well, BAA was back in the spotlight as it was asked to officially state whether it intended to carry on with its current application for another runway (known as ‘G2’).
You can read the full document and previous formal correspondence to BAA about G2 at the link above, but the important bit of John Denham’s polite but firm open letter to the airport owners says:
“…it is clear to me that the ownership issues around the airport will not be fully resolved for some time. Taken together with my previous commitment to a minimum of 8 weeks notice between a formal announcement and the start of the inquiry, I have concluded that the inquiry cannot reasonably start until after the next General Election… Additionally, given that the planning applications, orders and associated documentation were originally submitted nearly 2 years ago, I consider there will clearly be a need for the applicant to re-visit some of this material. This being the case, I would like to invite BAA to advise me formally what their future intentions are, firstly regarding the planning applications and orders, and secondly, if they are to pursue the proposal for a second runway, around the timescales they might envisage.”
The Aviation White Paper set out the apparent need for expansion around the UK 7 years ago at the end of 2003 – with a specific call for the first new runway to be built at Stansted by 2011. While BAA were challenging the Competition Commission about their right to maintain a monopoly, the Public Inquiry challenging its second runway plans has been delayed (and delayed) in the meantime. Perhaps running out of patience, the Secretary of State has now publically asking the operator to make its mind up about G2. We agree – this can’t go on indefinitely. Make your mind up, BAA – it’s over to you.