CAMPAIGNERS say plans to expand Stansted Airport are being rushed through at the last minute ahead of the upcoming elections in May.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has accused Uttlesford Council of failing to carry out the correct planning procedures as it prepares to make a final ruling on the £600m upgrade.

Bosses at Stansted Airport hope to commence work on the project later this year but have yet to finalise the finer details of the scheme, including what contributions it will make to healthcare, schools and good causes in the area.

Council bosses appear set to reach an agreement over these in the coming weeks but SSE has urged the authority not to rule on the plans until legal proceedings have concluded.

The case could be put before a judicial review if the courts rule transport secretary Chris Grayling was wrong to allow the planning application to be decided by Uttlesford Council

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: "For almost two years, the council leadership has insisted that determining this airport planning application at local level would ensure the maximum benefits for the local community. That promise is about to be totally betrayed.

"It beggars belief that our local council would be willing to short change its own residents – and knowingly so.

"Instead of holding out until a fairer agreement for its residents could be negotiated with Stansted Airport, the council appears intent on rushing through this shabby and defective deal before next month's local elections.

"We repeat our plea to delay its finalisation of this controversial Stansted Airport planning application until the legal proceedings have run their course."

In response to the criticism from campaigners, Uttlesford Council said it had worked with experts and the necessary authorities to ensure the appropriate S106 agreements were reached.

A spokesman added: "The planning committee’s determination of the planning application was made in November 2018. In preparing the planning agreement council officers have put into effect the recommendations that were set out in the report to the planning committee.

"This has seen the council work alongside other statutory authorities, external consultants expert in their fields and the applicant to ensure the most robust and appropriate agreement is reached.

"Planning law requires that the obligations must meet a number of tests. They must be necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms, directly related to the development and fairly and reasonably proportionate.

"Local finance considerations are not material to the final agreement, so the comparison with arrangements at other airports is not relevant to the legality of the permission that the council has resolved to grant."

Stansted Airport was contacted for comment.