Sir Alan has consistently fought against the expansion of Stansted Airport. The airport is the biggest employer in the constituency and brilliantly convenient for constituents to access an easy escape to sunnier parts of the world. However, as Sir Alan has argued for many years, any increase in capacity and/or introduction of a second runway would prove a serious encroachment of the rural tranquillity of the area.
Whilst there is currently little talk of expanding Stansted Airport, Sir Alan remains fiercely on guard against any future development.
Of the current situation, Sir Alan said:
“In the 2010 General Election the main political parties were falling over themselves to deny any intention of building another runway in the south-east.
“Five years on there is a strange silence. I am not sure how comforting that is. The stock response to any enquiry is that the report of the Davies Commission is awaited. Yet no party to date has promised that, if it forms the next Government, it will implement whatever Davies recommends. On the face of it the final recommendation will be one of two different options for expanding Heathrow or a second runway at Gatwick.
“Stansted is not therefore in the Davies equation. The possibility of a second runway at the airport has been hurled into the long grass by Davies. So that’s comforting, isn’t it? However, I emphasise “by Davies”. That does not have the same meaning as “by Government”. But, you may protest, hang on a minute. We’ve had this prestigious commission working away producing an exhaustive objective analysis. Surely to goodness it can’t be ignored. Well, unfortunately it can. It is as well to remember what happened to the recommendations which emerged from the last great airports commission led by Lord Justice Roskill. Within five years both its majority and minority recommendations were dead and buried.
“Against that background we should brace ourselves to realise that ultimately political considerations will determine where extra runway capacity is provided. Until I see the concrete being poured elsewhere I shall remain on guard against official eyes turning once again to Stansted.
“Stansted Airport is not the answer to the UK’s future airport capacity problem. Passenger numbers in recent years have declined at Stansted resulting in the airport using less than 50% of its capacity. Under the new ownership of Manchester Airports Group, fresh deals with airlines using Stansted have been signed which is good news for securing local jobs. Sir Howard himself highlighted in the report that transport links to Stansted are poor and this is something he believes could be improved upon now in order to make access to the airport easier for passengers. This is something that commuters from the local area would also benefit from since they face a daily battle with the current railway line which serves London, Stansted Airport and Cambridge – I will continue to press the Government on investing in the West Anglia line.
“It has been my belief, since I was a Member of Parliament for a Manchester constituency in the 1970s, that a new hub airport must be built off-shore. I fully support an Estuary airport. We must keep up with world-leading airports such as Charles De Gaulle, Schiphol and Dubai. Kicking the issue of building a hub airport into the long grass only allows business to slip through our hands and into neighbouring countries. With a Thames Estuary airport, round-the-clock flights would be possible and from a safety perspective, it makes much more sense for planes to fly over water as opposed to a highly-populated city.”