Both sides claim victory over Stansted
CAMPAIGNERS against a second runway at Stansted yesterday claimed a High Court victory in their fight to stop the expansion of the Essex airport.They celebrated a ruling that means they will have more say in the exact location of a new runway, potentially saving thousands of hectares of threatened Essex countryside.
CAMPAIGNERS against a second runway at Stansted yesterday claimed a High Court victory in their fight to stop the expansion of the Essex airport.
They celebrated a ruling that means they will have more say in the exact location of a new runway, potentially saving thousands of hectares of threatened Essex countryside.
A judge also decided there must be further consultation about expansion at Luton airport in Bedfordshire.
But overall, Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that plans for additional runways at Stansted and at Heathrow airport, as laid out in the Government's aviation White Paper, were lawful.
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The news was welcomed by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling whose White Paper had been challenged by residents' groups and local authorities.
Speaking of the challenges which had succeeded, the judge said: "In the context of air transport policy for the UK, or the south east of England, these are minor qualifications - but from the claimants' point of view they are of considerable local significance."
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A spokeswoman for pressure group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) insisted the ruling had delivered "a major setback to (airport operator) BAA's ambition to build a second runway at Stansted by 2011-12".
But in its own response to the High Court result, BAA said it still planned to submit a detailed runway planning application in spring 2006 and was confident that its 2011-12 target, although "challenging", could be met.
Whitehall sources also said that the judgment was unlikely to cause the Government much concern, adding that expansion at Stansted would always have had to be the subject of a planning inquiry in any case.
Expansion at Stansted has been bitterly resented by many local people who fear either losing their homes or their quality of life.
Residents' groups from the area around the Essex airport joined with others from Luton and Heathrow in forming a coalition with the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Hillingdon to fight proposals contained in the Government's 2003 Aviation White Paper.
Local authorities in Essex and Hertfordshire also joined them in the challenge.
The proposals included another runway at Stansted airport in Essex by 2011-12 followed by a short, third, runway at Heathrow in west London.
The proposals, plus expansion at other airports, are intended to accommodate a massive increase in air traffic by 2030.
During a recent hearing, attended by coachloads of objectors, the judge was told the Stansted plans were the result of a "manifestly inadequate and hence unlawful" public consultation.
The judge was told local residents feared there could be an "unprecedented and grotesque" destruction of the countryside round the airport.
Lawyers for the protesters asked Mr Justice Sullivan, sitting in London, to rule that they had been deprived of information and not properly consulted.
However, the judge's ruling cleared the way for a new runway at Stansted, ruling that the decision-making process which led to the White Paper "was lawful" and not unfair.
But he said the Stansted anti-runway campaigners were entitled to a ruling that, while Government policy support for a second runway at Stansted was "a fair outcome of the consultation process", the statement that the runway would be "the wide-spaced runway option presented in the consultation document" was not fair.
This, said the judge, was "a bridge too far".
His ruling means that there will have to be further planning consultations involving local councils and residents on the specific details of the new runway, which could lead to thousands of hectares of threatened Essex countryside being saved.
Transport Secretary Darling said: "I am pleased that the High Court has upheld the case for two additional runways in the south east of England at Heathrow and Stansted and rejected calls for that part of the Air Transport White Paper to be quashed.
"The Government has always accepted that the exact positioning and capacity of the runways at Stansted and Luton will be decided by the normal planning process.
"Implementation of the policy set out in the White Paper remains on course and we will report on progress in 2006."