Stansted and its owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) have confirmed they will appeal against a local council decision to refuse permission for the airport’s expansion.

The planning committee of Uttlesford District Council in Saffron Walden, Essex, refused an application to raise the annual cap on passenger numbers at Stansted from 35 million to 43 million in January

Stansted claims it could handle the additional eight million without an increase in the number of flights and has offered a legally binding commitment to reduce the airport’s noise footprint.

The airport handled 28 million passengers in 2019.

Stansted chief executive Ken O’Toole confirmed the appeal to the Planning Inspectorate of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is expected to launch a public inquiry before making a recommendation to government.

O’Toole said: “We’ve been listening to local communities and used their feedback to shape our proposals.

“The application we put forward would mean no increase in the number of flights each year, and we committed to provide a comprehensive package of measures to benefit local people.”

He suggested: “The majority of local people support our proposals and welcome the airport’s commitment to maintaining the existing cap on the number of flights.

“In our view, the council failed to provide any credible or substantiated reasons to justify its decision to refuse the application. We are confident about the merits of our proposals and the prospects of securing planning approval.”

The council planning committee decided Stansted had failed to demonstrate the additional passengers would not result in increased aircraft noise or a detrimental effect on air quality.

It ruled the additional emissions would be incompatible with the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that emissions from UK departing flights be at or below the level of 2005 in 2050, and it decided the airport also failed to provide the necessary infrastructure to support the application.

Trade union Unite, which represents more than 2,500 workers at Stansted, said it would support the appeal.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: “Since Uttlesford district council refused planning permission in January, the aviation and travel sectors have been thrown into turmoil.

“We need to plan for the post-pandemic economy and Unite views Stansted’s expansion as an economic building block. Hopefully, this appeal will give airlines the confidence to invest in Stansted rather than shedding jobs.”

Pete Waters Visit East of England executive director said: “The airport’s decision to appeal the ruling is critical at a time when the East of England’s hospitality industry, and the hundreds of thousands of people it employs, is suffering so badly from the effects of the pandemic.

Essex Chambers of Commerce policy director David Birch added: “It’s right that Stansted is to appeal the decision. Enabling the airport to grow to its full potential will allow it to compete with airports not only in the UK but around the world.”