BAA plans 'greener and cheaper' second Stansted runway

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The Independent Online

The airport operator BAA today released plans for a "greener and cheaper " second runway at Stansted airport in Essex.

BAA reckons its new runway and other airport improvements can be completed for £2.7 billion - about £1 billion less than envisaged in the Government's aviation White Paper.

BAA's preferred option is for the runway to be shorter in length and nearer the existing runway than original Government plans.

The company, which also runs Heathrow and Gatwick airports, boasts that its new plans will involve the take up of less land and that fewer properties and listed buildings will be lost than first thought.

The new runway and other new facilities would take Stansted's annual passenger capacity to 50 million by 2013 and further work will mean the annual numbers soaring to 76 million by 2030.

BAA's preferred option, among four that the company will now consult on, would see the building by 2013 of a 3,048 metre-long runway 1.36 miles east of the existing runway.

This is shorter than the 3,500 metre-long option shown in the White Paper.

BAA said today that a total of 627 hectares of land would be lost rather than 700, 87 rather than 100 properties would be lost, 25 rather than 29 listed buildings would go and fewer people would be affected by noise.

The new runway would be part of phase one of what the company is calling Stansted Generation 2, or just G2.

This first phase - costing £1.7 billion - would also include:

* New parallel taxiways and cross-taxiways connecting the new runway with the existing runway

* Around 42 aircraft stands and associated piers to provide access to and from the aircraft

* A passenger terminal building, with passenger, baggage and aircraft handling facilities, a new control tower

* A road connection from the M11 into the new terminal area.

Further phases would cost about £1 billion and would include further expansion of the new terminal, runway and airfield developments and additional expenditure on car parks, roads, piers and satellites.

A second runway at Stansted - with the Government actually wanting a completion by 2012 rather than Stansted's revised 2013 timetable - was at the heart of the Government's White Paper, with expansion at Heathrow, in the form of a third, short, runway, not expected before 2015.

The BAA chief executive Mike Clasper said today: "We've worked very hard in the last two years to ensure that Stansted G2 will deliver great value to the UK economy, to our airlines and to people using the airport.

"We've also examined in great detail the environmental impacts of the project, in order to ensure that they are reduced as far as possible.

"The good news is that we've managed to reduce the costs of this project by nearly 30% compared with the Government's original estimate.

"This confirms our view that Stansted G2 is a very deliverable project, given BAA's track record on big construction projects like Heathrow Terminal 5."

He went on: "Now we're ready to consult with local communities, airlines and other stakeholders to test our thinking and improve our plans, prior to their submission for formal planning approval in 2007.

"If the planning system works as it's supposed to, and our regulator agrees a satisfactory pricing formula to remunerate our shareholders, the first phase of Stansted G2 can be operational by the end of 2013."

Carol Barbone, campaign director for the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign (SSEC), said the BAA proposal would still cause catastrophic damage to the environment.

"A second runway in any position would be an environmental catastrophe for which there is absolutely no economic justification," she said.

"This proposed second runway will have a devastating impact, not just in the immediate vicinity of the area but regionally and globally.

"We are looking at the break-up of villages and the loss of homes and heritage for which there is no justification.

"Regionally we are looking at the possibility of one million extra passengers travelling to and from Stansted - mostly coming by road. The impact of that alone would be very substantial, not counting the extra air traffic.

"Globally we face a very serious problem with climate change, and increasing passenger numbers on this scale will do nothing to reduce damaging emissions."

SSEC says it has 6,000 members made up of local residents, local authorities, local MPs and other members of the public.

Ms Barbone said the three county councils around Stansted were opposed to expansion, around 100 town and parish councils and every local MP and MEP.

Ms Barbone added: "We would expect BAA to put a project of this scale to its shareholders for approval."

She said budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair had already said they would not pay for the project.

And she said there would be fierce opposition to any suggestion of the project being financed by cross subsidies from Gatwick and Heathrow.

She added: "It is not quite clear how BAA proposes to pay for this."

Ms Barbone added: "Stop Stansted Expansion is calling on BAA to withdraw its plans for a second runway on the grounds that it would be an environmental catastrophe if it ever went ahead, whatever the location.

"BAA has acted wholly irresponsibly and insensitively by prolonging community uncertainty for at least another three years whilst BAA decides whether the project would be in the interests of its shareholders.

"The mass opposition across the region to BAA's second runway plans and the determination of the airline industry as a whole to oppose the airport developer's ideas for funding expansion would combine to create very major obstacles to the realisation of the proposals.

"BAA should recognise this now and withdraw its unsustainable plans before creating still further anguish and blight in the community.

"Furthermore, the blinkered view being taken by BAA regarding the environmental impacts which a second runway would create was a matter of very grave concern and an insult to the communities which it was intending to consult."

SSEC chairman Peter Sanders added: "BAA can expect only anger and hostility when it takes its plans out to the people who will be exposed to their consequences.

"BAA's slightly scaled-back perimeter would do nothing to alleviate the widespread impact that the project as a whole would have across Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, or to reassure those in the villages most directly affected by BAA's land grab.

"By no stretch of the imagination could the noise from three times as many planes at Stansted as today be ignored, nor could the impacts which would result from an extra million passengers per week travelling to and from the airport, largely by road but also on a creaking rail system.

"The rural character of the region would inevitably suffer a major transformation as a result of the proposals in the unlikely event of their ever being allowed.

"It is also highly irresponsible of BAA to ignore the global warming impacts of its proposals by trying to shift responsibility onto others.

"Operations at Stansted Airport currently pump the equivalent of seven million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually; full use on the existing runway would increase this to 12 million tons and with a second runway this would rise to 23 million tons.

"This is the same as is produced by every household (2.3 million) in the East of England, including their cars. This cannot be reconciled with the general view that action needs to be taken to address global warming, defined as the biggest threat faced by society, matching even global terrorism according to the Prime Minister and his chief scientific adviser.

"BAA should also beware its own complacency since, before it even starts thinking about a second runway, it will need to secure approval for increasing the use of the existing runway.

"Stansted is presently handling 22 million passengers per annum (mppa) and only has permission to go to 25 mppa.

"BAA's planning application for further use of the existing runway will not even be submitted until April 2006 and is already a year behind schedule.

"A virtual doubling in the capacity of the existing runway would expose the community to double the pain it currently experiences."

Mr Sanders went on: "The planning application for a second runway will not be made before 2007 at the earliest and will inevitably go to public inquiry the following year.

"The airport developer has already admitted that it could not deliver to the Government's target date of 2011/12 for a second runway at Stansted and that even with cross subsidy, completion by 2013 would be challenging.

"If funding had to be secured on the stand-alone basis currently required by the Civil Aviation Authority, this date would be delayed by several more years.

"BAA has said that it will not build a second runway at Stansted unless it would benefit its shareholders. It has also said that it cannot take a decision on whether there is a business case for going forward until the end of 2008, by which time it hopes to have secured planning permission and to have persuaded the CAA to reverse its ruling prohibiting cross-subsidy for Stansted from Heathrow and Gatwick.

"BAA is very optimistic if it believes that it can ever overcome these two hurdles.

"A three-year time scale goes beyond optimism and into the land of fantasy."

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