A HIGH Court decision which allows Stansted Airport to expand to 43million passengers a year will not be contested, a council has confirmed.

Total costs incurred by Uttlesford Council from the failed bid to stop the expansion are estimated to be in the region of £2.6million.

The council voted to accept the judgement of the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE at a meeting last week, which refused permission for the council to apply for a statutory planning review.

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Councillors and activists have criticised the Residents for Uttlesford (RfU) administration for not defending the original decision by the planning committee to refuse Stansted Airport, which is owned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), planning permission to expand.

Instead, the district council’s position was to approve the proposed expansion subject to conditions, but this failed to convince the High Court.

Campaign group Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) said it recognised the district council had “very little choice” to halt its legal challenge, but said the result was “one of the most disappointing aspects of this whole saga”.

A spokesperson for SAW said in a statement: “That strategy caught us completely by surprise, pulled the rug from under our feet and caused total confusion.

“Neither the inspectors, nor MAG, nor ourselves had a clear understanding of Uttlesford Council’s position.

“Uttlesford Council’s strategy backfired spectacularly and resulted in an order for the council to pay all of MAG’s costs which will undoubtedly be substantial.”

Council leader John Lodge was on holiday when last week’s meeting was held and unable to respond to questions from councillors, despite calls from opposition members for him to resign.

Deputy council leader Petrina Lees told the meeting: “It’s never great when things don’t go your way.

“We all here are extremely disappointed at where we are today.”

Green Party deputy leader Paul Fairhurst claimed the planning committee had been excluded from decision-making on the legal battle.

He said: “Throughout this sorry mess, chair, we have been stifled, threatened with legal action and placated whenever we raised concerns. Yet there we were, watching a train wreck in slow motion.”

Conservative councillor George Smith suggested the district council should not have entered into a battle from which there was “little prospect of success”.

He said: “It’s a disaster for the district.

“This is not our money to throw away, it’s taxpayers’ money and this council has a fundamental duty to spend public money wisely.”

The district council’s planning committee originally refused planning permission for the expansion in 2020. But it was then allowed after an appeal by MAG in May 2021.

Uttlesford Council was seeking a review into the High Court’s decision, but permission for a statutory review was denied on October 1. As a result, permission for the airport to expand by eight million passengers a year still stands.