A pre-inquiry meeting for the proposed new Stansted runway was attended by concerned local residents to consider the arrangements and timetable for the public inquiry examining the case for and against the second runway at Stansted.
Some 300 local residents attended the four-hour meeting at the Stansted Hilton Hotel and the many who spoke strongly endorsed the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) view that parallel sessions would be wholly unfair to the local community while giving an enormous advantage to BAA who, with its team of five barristers, could handle such 'twin-track' arrangements in its stride.
April 2009 start
The meeting, organised by the Government's Planning Inspectorate, was chaired by Andrew Phillipson, the lead inspector appointed by the Government to conduct the inquiry. Phillipson will be assisted by a deputy inspector and two assistant inspectors
The inquiry is due to start in April 2009 and the Inspector had previously proposed a six month timetable which he believed could be achieved by splitting the Inquiry into two 'streams' and running concurrent sessions examining different subjects in different Inquiry rooms at the same time.
Twin track approach unfair
Barristers representing Uttlesford District Council and partner authorities Essex County Council, Herts County Council, East Herts District Council (‘the Councils’), the National Trust, Ryanair, Easyjet and the other Stansted Airlines also expressed strong reservations about the risk of unfairness and the practical difficulties of a twin track approach – which have never been tried before at Public Inquiry.
Regarding the proposed six month duration for the Public Inquiry, SSE pointed out that this would be the UK's biggest ever airport Inquiry.
Parallel sessions "booted into touch"
The Inspector agreed to take account of all the views expressed and to re-consider the proposed timetable and arrangements for the Inquiry. Phillipson acknowledged that his original thinking about parallel sessions had been "booted into touch" and insisted that he attached great importance to ensuring that the Inquiry was conducted fairly.
SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone commented: "We very much hope the Inspector will take on board the many concerns expressed about any attempt to steamroller the Inquiry process. There is not much more we can say until we see his revised proposals."
T5 inquiry lasted four years
If the proposal were to be approved, Stansted would have permission to handle 68M passengers a year – more than any other airport in Europe today. By way of comparison, SSE cited the four years it had taken for the Heathrow T5 Inquiry which had fewer issues to consider and the six months taken for the London City Airport Inquiry examining whether it should be allowed to expand to 700,000 passengers a year. It was inconceivable that a planning application for almost 100 times that throughput could be dealt with in the same space of time, especially since if approved, a second Stansted runway would result in the destruction of so much countryside, ancient woodlands and so many peoples' homes.
Many members of the public who spoke at the meeting also expressed strong and passionate views that the inquiry had to consider the issue of climate change, pointing out that aviation was the fastest growing contributor to global warming. There were particular concerns about this because the inspector had not explicitly identified climate change as one of the key issues to be considered at the inquiry.