Second runway at Stansted 'would put unbearable strain on services'

Plans to double the size of the UK's third busiest airport are to face opposition from six local authorities representing 3.2 million people.

A second runway at Stansted would put "unbearable strain" on local services, according to authorities in Essex, Suffolk and Hertfordshire which pledged to "vigorously campaign" against a proposed expansion announced last week by the airport operator BAA. Uttlesford District Council – which covers Stansted – has been asked for permission by BAA to build the runway and a second terminal, although a final decision will almost certainly be made by ministers following a public inquiry. If approved, the £2.5bn development would open in 2015 and serve 68 million passengers a year by around 2030.

The county councils in Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, and district councils serving Braintree, East Hertfordshire and Uttlesford, said a second runway was "unwanted and unnecessary". Local politicians announced they were forming a cross-party group named Councils Opposing a 2nd Runway (CO2) and called on the Government to "totally rethink" its aviation strategy.

Matthew Knowles, a spokesman for the Society of British Aerospace Companies, said the expansion was designed to meet demand from the public for flights that would bring money into the economy.