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Stansted airport as with many UK airports started life as a military airport. During the Second World War it became a base for USA air force being close to the south coast and within easy reach of Europe. After the war the site was taken over by the Ministry of Defence although the USA engineers did return to lengthen the runway making it one of the longest in the country.
When the package holiday took off in the 60’s the original plan was for Stansted to become London’s 3 rd airport despite being a considerable distance from the capital and in the county of Essex. However, local protests forced the government to choose a site at Maplin Sands on the Thames estuary, however the oil crisis soon put pay to this, which made any further expansion of this site very expensive compared to the vast flatlands of Stansted.
Once again in 1979 Stansted was designated as the third airport for London and once again local opposition was strong and it was not until 1985 was the airport given the go ahead to develop following the longest Public enquiry in this country’s history.
By this time M11 had been built connecting the capital to the South and to the AI North and East. The defining moment was the inspiration from Norman Foster who apart from being responsible for designing much of the terminal also oversaw the building of a direct rail link from Liverpool Street London into the airport at a cost of some 500 million. Today this is known as the Stansted Express and only takes 45minutes from the heart of London to inside the terminal.
The terminal was officially opened by the Queen in 1991.Today this is known as the Stansted Express and only takes 45minutes from the heart of London to inside the terminal. This is some 30 years later than the airport was marked for development.
The development of Stansted thereafter has been startling due to its location close to a massive population base with Gatwick and Heathrow already at bursting point and the rise of Ryanair the first of the low cost carriers. In May 1991, Ryanair switched its main London base from London Luton Airport to the new London Stansted Airport. The main attraction to Ryanair being the brand new terminal with offering plenty of expansion and the rail link. To put this into perspective Ryanair in total carried 2 million passengers from all airports and today carries over 42 million. Much of this increase has been down to the passenger numbers at Stansted.
In 1991 the government allowed Stansted to increase from 8 million to 15 million passengers and with the airport now achieving 23.5 million it has overtaken Manchester as the UK’s busiest airport.
The next step for Stansted is for a second runway to be built and further extensions to the terminal building. BAA is currently applying for the runway but once again formidable opposition can be expected. However, the benefit of Stansted to the local economy is a proved case and the opposition may be from farther afield.