Save Essex Countryside July02

Expansion of Stansted airport is both unnecessary and unacceptable and coupled with plans for 70,000 homes in the M11 corridor will lead to the destruction of rural Essex, said Bashir Khanbhai, Conservative MEP for the East of England.

Commenting on the consultation document on airport for the South-East, Mr Khanbhai said: "I support a modest expansion of Stansted airport, and wrote to the managing director of the British Airports Authority in November 2000 to also suggest improvements in parking and the road-rail infrastructure.

"Stansted, with one runway in 2000, handled daily around 32,000 passengers on 220 flights (approx 14 flights per hour for 16 hour day). The proposed 5.2bn expansion of Stansted from 1 to 4 runways will allow it to handle around 120,000 passengers on 800 flights (flight every minute), create 93,000 jobs at the airport and give a significant boost to the area's economy.  

"But it will destroy half of Elsenham Wood, 1200 hectares of prime agricultural land, over 200 Grade II buildings including ancient monuments recognised by English Heritage, cover Takeley in concrete and ruin the rural beauty of the Stour Valley, Gaunt's Head, Molehill Green, Bomber's Green and Walton-on-the-Naze. Building almost 70,000 new low cost houses will diminish irreversibly the rural character of the "corridor" from Cambridge to Stansted.

"I think such a massive expansion of Stansted over a few years is unnecessary and unacceptable. I see merit in sharing capacity with a new airport in the Thames Estuary, possibly part funded by the EU, that will certainly rejuvenate economically a deprived area. Stansted will have fewer new jobs but the rural character of Essex that attracts all residents and many foreign tourists will be preserved. I hope common sense prevails!"

Mr Khanbhai added: "Uttlesford District Council, the British Airports Authority and the British government must consider whether a modest expansion of Stansted with a new airport in the Thames Estuary to share capacity for increased air travel is a better option, both economically and environmentally."