Campaigners have criticised proposals to double the size of the UK's third-busiest airport, Stansted, labelling them "beyond environmental vandalism".
BAA submitted plans for a second terminal and runway at the Essex airport yesterday. If approved, the £2.5bn development would open in 2015 and serve 68 million passengers a year by 2030. It would, says BAA, create more than 13,000 jobs and generate £9bn a year.
But it has been fiercely criticised by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) – a group made up of more than 7,000 residents, councillors, MPs and environmentalists – and Greenpeace.
They say the expansion would ruin the lives of those living nearby, devastate hundreds of acres of countryside, put strain on transport infrastructure and cause huge environmental damage.
Peter Sanders of SSE said: "This is a betrayal of a longstanding undertaking... that there would never be a second runway at Stansted. We will fight BAA's plans tooth and nail." The group claims that noise pollution generated by the extra flights would be heard up to 70 miles away, and would produce the equivalent of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide.
But Alastair McDermid, the BAA director of the Stansted Generation 2 project, said: "The potential benefit is enormous for business growth... and for boosting inbound tourism." He added that rail and road links would be improved, including new junctions on the M11 and A120, should the plan go ahead.
And David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "With the UK economy now facing a slowdown, it...[is] crucial that [Stansted] is permitted to expand."