Stansted today made a formal application to allow annual passenger numbers to increase to 43 million.

The Essex airport wants the current cap, which keeps passengers levels at 35 million a year, to be raised to make best use of the airport’s existing single runway over the next decade.

A planning application has been submitted to the local Uttlesford District Council to raise the current cap while committing to remain within current approved limits on aircraft noise and flight numbers.

The application has been shaped by an “extensive consultation” between the airport and local communities.

Stansted claims that the introduction of the next generation of new quieter aircraft will ensure that future passenger growth can be achieved without increasing the number of flights or noise footprint already permitted.

For example, new Boeing 737MAX and Airbus A320Neo aircraft currently being brought into service by Ryanair and easyJet are up to 50% quieter than the aircraft they are replacing.

Raising the restriction on passenger numbers will create 5,000 new on-site jobs, improve passenger choice and boost international long-haul routes to fast-growing markets like China, India and the US.

The application will also ease pressure on the London airport system by unlocking additional capacity at a time when other airports are full, according to Stansted.

The airport expects to hit the current cap of 35 million passengers a year by the early 2020s.

Now is the right time to consider the framework for growth beyond the current limit “in order for the airport to build on its momentum and provide long term clarity to airlines wanting to use its facilities”.

The application will also seek permission for two new links to the runway and nine additional aircraft stands.

Chief executive Ken O’Toole said: “Today, London Stansted airport is virtually unrecognisable from the one which MAG (Manchester Airports Group) acquired almost five years ago to the day.

“During this time, we have spent £150 million on upgrading the terminal, added nearly ten million passengers, more than doubled the number of airlines and developed a short-haul route network which is the best in Europe.

“Looking to the future, demand at Stansted is predicted to remain strong and with constraints on runway capacity in the south-east increasing, we are expecting to reach our current limit on passenger numbers in the early 2020s.

“We are now at the point where it is right to consider the framework for the airport’s growth beyond the current limit.”

He added: “From day one, we have been guided by a belief that when our business prospers, the regions and communities in which we operate also prosper and I am proud of the fact that we have managed to deliver our growth in a phased way and worked hard to closely involve our local communities in this journey.

“Over the past six months we have consulted widely on our future growth plans and based on the feedback from these discussions, we’ve made sure our growth can be achieved within current limits on flight numbers and with no increase in the size of the airport’s noise footprint. This is good news for local residents.

“In addition, thousands more local jobs will be created and our long-haul connectivity to fast-growing markets like China, USA, India will receive a real boost.

“The recent announcement by Emirates that it will begin daily services to Dubai, in addition to Primera Air launching flights to New York, Boston, Washington and Toronto this year, is a clear statement of what the airport can achieve and we are talking to a range of airlines who are looking to grow their operations at Stansted.

“It is vital for the region that Stansted is able to build on its momentum and the long-term proposals that we have outlined today will enable us to do this and more importantly, provide the local community with confidence that future growth can be delivered in a measured and sustainable way.”

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary backed the plans and said: “Stansted’s potential and spare capacity remains untapped so it’s vital to make best and efficient use of the existing infrastructure to provide more growth opportunities and greater value for consumers at a time when runway capacity is more constrained in the south-east of England, and in light of the challenges Brexit may bring.”