The expansion could mean an extra 10m passengers a year
Plans to expand Stansted Airport have been given the go ahead by the Government in a move which has angered environmentalists and local campaigners.
Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has given permission for the airport to accommodate a further 23,000 flights a year, carrying an extra 10 million passengers.
His announcement, with the agreement of Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears, means the Government is overturning a decision by Uttlesford District Council.
The authority had refused the expansion on the grounds of noise and environmental concerns, prompting an appeal by airport operator BAA.
STANSTED EXPANSION TIMELINE
December 2003 - Proposals for a second Stansted runway revealed
May 2005 - BAA says runway could be delayed
October 2005 - British Airways questions the need for the new runway
November 2006 - Plans to increase flights and passenger numbers refused by local council
March 2008 - BAA submits planning application for second runway to double airport's size
October 2008 - Government agrees to increase in flights and passenger numbers
What does this now mean for the budget airline hub and communities living near the Essex airport?
Stansted's managing director Stewart Wingate said it could see up to 35 million passengers a year passing through the gates.
"We will now be studying the full detail of the decision, including the independent planning inspector's report before commenting further," he said.
"What we can say today though is that this is clearly great news for passengers and for businesses, located in the local community or across the wider region."
'Aircraft noise cut'
Ministers believe the impact on health caused by air pollution from the expansion is "likely to be very small".
Matthew Knowles, of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, said noise from UK aircraft had been cut by 75% over the past 30 years.
"The industry has also set itself the target for a further 50% cut in both noise and CO2 emissions from 2000 levels by 2020," he added.
Despite the move, the ministers said they were expressing no views on the need for a second runway at the airport.
The new runway is a key part of BAA's long-term expansion plans and proposals for this, along with a new terminal, were unveiled in March.
Campaigners claim the decision will harm the environment
This plan has been branded as "environmentally disastrous" by campaign groups.
And many believe Geoff Hoon's decision is equally bad.
Residents living near the airport will have to put up with more noise and air pollution, it is claimed.
The National Trust opposes the expansion, claiming increased air traffic will have an adverse impact on nearby Hatfield Forest.
It has described the site as one of Europe's last remaining medieval royal hunting forests and believes an increase in flights and noise will hit visitor numbers.
Uttlesford District Council leader Jim Ketteridge said: "Allowing BAA to increase the amount of air traffic marks a further erosion of our quality of life, particularly for all those living near Stansted Airport."
Stop Stansted Expansion, the campaign group which has led opposition to further development, said it was "considering the implications" of the Government's decision before commenting further.
And the Liberal Democrats have also criticised the move, claiming there is a "gaping void" between the Government's rhetoric on the environment and its actions.