Increasing passenger capacity at Stansted would be an environmental catastrophe nullifying any potential economic gains, the public inquiry into the expansion of the airport heard yesterday. The Times

Objectors said that airport operator baa had not fully considered the impact on air quality, noise levels and the Countryside of increasing passenger numbers from 25 million a year to 35 million. There were hundreds of protesters at the first day of the inquiry at Stansted. Uttlesford District Council rejected in November BAA's proposals for the expansion.

Michael Humphries, QC, representing BAA, accused the objectors of nimbyism, and added that people liked the benefits of infrastructure but did not like to live near to such schemes.

David Holgate, QC, representing the Stansted Airlines Consultative Committee, said that if the site was overdeveloped the costs would be passed on to customers, who would use other airports instead. He added that BAA would be submit a planning application for a second runway at Stansted before the end of the inquiry, which is due to last until October.