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23/07/2021

PINs accused of 'serious failure' over climate policy in Stansted challenge

Words: Huw Morris
Stansted Airport / Shutterstock: 479473720

Uttlesford District Council is accusing the Planning Inspectorate (PINs) of "a serious failure to understand" climate change policy with its approval of Stansted Airport’s expansion, according to legal papers lodged in the High Court.

Between January and March this year, a panel of three inspectors held a public inquiry into Stansted’s appeal against Uttlesford’s refusal for a development that would increase the number of passengers from 35 million to 43 million a year. The inspectors allowed the appeal and ordered the council to pay all of Stansted’s costs.

In legal documents submitted to the High Court, the council argues two grounds for overturning PINs’ decision through a judicial review, with 11 grounds for not paying the appeal costs.

On the first ground, Uttlesford accuses the panel of taking a “blinkered” approach to climate change and carbon policies. It claims the panel excluded a raft of climate change policies and considered only three documents as a single national aviation policy framework. 

Uttlesford’s legal submission describes the panel’s decision letter as a “superficial document”. The panel had estimated the inquiry would take 40 days but despite lasting 10 days less, heard evidence “from dozens of witnesses and many experts, took in tens of thousands of pages of material and received reams of written submissions”. The council claims that “for the greater part, none of this found its way into the analysis” in the decision letter. 

Instead, it says the panel considered that national aviation policy was “the start and end point” for considering carbon emissions and climate change impacts from the development regardless of when the growth might occur. 

“Effectively, national aviation policy prejudged the carbon emissions/climate change issue for all times. ‘National aviation policy’ was thus to be read and applied siloed from all subsequent and other policies on carbon emissions/climate change.” 

On the second ground, the council accuses PINs of failing to explain why it rejected a key planning condition - known as Condition 15 - which applies to air quality, carbon emissions and noise.

The submission is part of Uttlesford’s bid to judicially review PINs decision. The council hopes to secure the review by the autumn.

Image credit | Claudio Divizia, Shutterstock

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