Stansted Airport will be able to charge airlines as much as it wants from next week onwards after price cap regulations were lifted.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced yesterday it would lift restrictions on air cargo operations at the airport from April 1.

It follows an earlier announcement in January deregulating passenger air travel at Stansted.

The CAA has ruled Stansted does not have sufficient market power to make regulation necessary.

But Ryanair, which is based at the Essex site, has warned of price rises and fears the move will “harm consumers”.

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) took control of Stansted from BAA last February.

Graeme Ferguson, MAG commercial director for cargo, said: “We believe there is a significant opportunity to grow the cargo business at Stansted by adopting a different commercial approach, and we are committing considerable time and effort engaging with cargo operators.

“With spare capacity to support significant growth and additional economic activity, MAG sees this announcement as a key development in its strategy for developing Stansted Airport into a thriving cargo airport and continuing the airport's return to growth.”

CAA director Iain Osborne said: ““Together, these decisions mean Stansted will not be economically regulated from April onwards.

“This gives Stansted an excellent opportunity to innovate and we expect to see competition drive the delivery of high quality services that meet the needs of both passengers and cargo owners.”

The CAA decision will leave Heathrow and Gatwick as the UK’s only regulated airports.