BAA moves on Stansted

Operator aims to accelerate pounds 250m expansion plan
BAA, the UK's leading airport operator, is expected to seek detailed planning permission tomorrow for a pounds 250m expansion programme at Stansted airport - a move that would create 5,000 jobs over the next few years.

The proposals are designed to tackle the surge in demand for air travel in the South-east. They would enable the Essex airport to double the number of passengers it can receive every year to 15 million from its current capacity of 8 million.

In addition, BAA will also be seeking separate parliamentary approval to increase the number of flights in and out of the airport every year to 185,000 from 120,000.

Outline planning permission for Stansted, granted in 1985, approved in principle a future increase in the airport's capacity to 15 million passengers subject to detailed scrutiny by Uttlesford District Council, the local planning authority.

BAA now wants to accelerate the development because of stronger than expected passenger growth and to cope with demand from airlines frustrated with the public inquiry into proposals for a fifth terminal at Heathrow. The inquiry, already the longest in British legal history is expected to drag on for several more years. BAA expects demand for air travel in the South-east to double over the next 15 to 20 years.

The company hopes to receive planning permission for its Stansted plans shortly after Christmas. While Stansted is currently the least congested of BAA's three London airports with 6.5 million passengers expected in 1998 compared with 25 million at Gatwick and 60 million at Heathrow, it is the fastest growing in terms of traffic. Overall passenger traffic rose 29.5 per cent last year compared with 7.4 per cent at Gatwick and 5.5 per cent at Heathrow. Ten new scheduled airlines began services to 20 new destinations this year alone, fuelled partly by the development of London's Docklands. Although Stansted was originally conceived as a holiday airport, more than 40 per cent of its customers are now businessmen. Alitalia, SAS and BA's low cost, no-frills airline, Go, are among the airlines to have started services from Stansted this year.

"We are looking forward over the next few years to continued strong growth, which is currently 35 per cent month on month," said a Stansted spokesman. "We feel pretty confident we will break through 7 million next year, placing us firmly at number four in UK airports league after Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester."

BAA's plans include an expansion on both sides of the existing terminal and new entry and exit lanes from the runway to allow landing craft to clear it more quickly. The development is likely to be staggered rather than take place in one go.

"We are pretty busy during the peaks and then an airline would find it difficult to get the slots it wanted," said the airport spokesman.

John Bosworth, deputy head of planning at Uttlesford Council said he expected opposition to the proposal. "I would guess some of the local residents may well be concerned about increased number of aircraft and increased traffic on roads." BAA also plans to make improvements to road access from the airport to the M11 to help cope with the increased traffic.

The move at Stansted is unlikely to help British Airways in its current battle with EU and UK regulators, who want it to give up slots at Heathrow as a condition for approving the go-ahead for its alliance with American Airlines, as Stansted does not have the same global web of connections as Heathrow.