Ryanair and EasyJet, the two biggest airlines at Stansted Airport have joined local campaigners and environmental groups against plans for a second runway.

But while campaigners are worried about the environmental impact, Ryanair and EasyJet criticised the cost.

Airport operator BAA’s latest proposal would see a runway built in stages from 2011, opening in 2015 at a total cost of £2.27 billion – down from £4 billion.

BAA has the backing of the Government but Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary warned: “This will lead to a doubling of passenger charges at Stansted.”

EasyJet chief executive Andy Harrison described discussions between the airlines and BAA as a “mock consultation“.

BAA can also expect stiff local opposition, co-ordinated by the Stop Stansted Expansion group, when it lodges a formal planning application in the summer.

The runway would increase passenger numbers from 24 million to 68 million a year, putting Stansted on a par with Heathrow Airport.

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Birmingham International airport expansion bid

Birmingham International is to seek planning permission to extend its runway to allow long-haul flights from 2012. The current runway is only suitable for short-haul as larger aircraft require an extra 400 metres for take-off and landing. The airport has been seeking a runway extension since 1995.