Local residents are to be consulted by Stansted to help shape its plans to make best use of existing runway capacity at the airport so it can handle almost nine million extra passengers a year.

The Essex airport has a planning cap that limits annual passenger numbers to 35 million but its existing runway has the potential to serve around 44 million passengers a year.

Stansted currently handles almost 25 million passengers a year, flying to more than 180 destinations in 40 countries.

Eight exhibitions are to be held in towns and villages during July as part of preparation for the submission of a planning application later this year to the local district council in Uttlesford to raise the current passenger and flight limits.

A dedicated website is being created to share information and capture the views of those unable to attend the consultation events.

Following submission of the planning application, Uttlesford District Council will carry out a further consultation with local people, businesses and statutory agencies as part of its process for determining whether to grant planning permission.

Airport chief executive Andrew Cowan said: “Stansted will be critical in supporting the UK’s economic growth and increasing our global competitiveness.

“Making the most of existing capacity at Stansted over the next 10-15 years is a strategic priority and we want to hear what people across our region think.”

He added: “We are committed to meeting future demand in the most sustainable and efficient way possible.

“In the coming weeks and months we will be continuing to talk to those with an interest in Stansted’s growth, including local residents, businesses and airline partners to ensure we maximise the social and economic benefits and address any impacts.

“By lifting the current planning caps, Stansted will be able to serve around 44 million passengers a year on its existing runway by 2030.

“Making use of Stansted’s spare capacity will benefit not only the dynamic and fast growing east of England region, but also London and the UK.

“It will support the creation of thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds in additional economic activity, and will ensure the UK succeeds as an outward-facing trading nation as we leave the EU.

“We know that growth is a sensitive and important issue for people living close to airports and we are committed to engaging, listening and sharing as much information as possible as we develop our plans.

“We take our responsibilities to the communities around the airport seriously, and as part of our growth plan we will focus on operating in cleaner, quieter and smarter ways.  Our airlines have invested heavily in quieter and cleaner fleets helping to reduce our noise footprint and we are committed to going further to minimise the impact of noise disturbance.

“We will remain focused on providing employment opportunities for local people, building on the fantastic education, jobs and training schemes we have in place.  The hugely successful Aerozone education centre and our commitment together with Harlow College to invest in a new technical college at the airport demonstrates our ambition to go further in this area. Last year alone, we helped 800 local people access jobs.

“Unlocking the full potential of Stansted’s single runway will be good for passengers and competition, and help businesses access key markets and trade with new partners. Passengers will also benefit from significant investment in new facilities, providing them with a high quality travelling experience.

“We believe by setting out our plans and sharing our thinking we can grow the airport to serve a modern economy as a responsible and sustainable forward-looking business at the heart of the local community.”