That was the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the announcement today that Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has applied for judicial review of the Airports Commission’s refusal to revisit its airport expansion criteria. In September the Commission had to relieve one of its members of his duties after it was revealed he was still being paid by the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) when he took up his role. MAG are the owners of Stansted airport and have submitted a proposal for three extra runways that would devastate large areas of countryside and would damage tranquillity further still.
Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner and barrister at CPRE, said:
‘The Airports Commission cannot on the one hand accept that it was improper for one of its members to have a financial connection to an airport expansion proposal and on the other hand claim this could not have any impact whatsoever on the integrity of its decision-making.’
CPRE was a claimant in the successful judicial review against a third runway at Heathrow in 2010. With the Department for Transport viewed as close to the aviation industry, it hoped that the Airports Commission would mean much needed independent scrutiny in the case for airport expansion. However, CPRE is concerned it has not given sufficient weight to the impact of aviation growth on the character of the countryside.
‘We have become increasingly concerned that the way the Airport Commission proposes to assess airport expansion would short-change the countryside. Now that it turns out one of the Commission’s members had a financial connection with a proposal to bulldoze runways over historic countryside, there is more than just a whiff of impropriety. If the Commission is to maintain its credibility, it needs to accept that a review of its criteria is the only way forward.’