Legal battle set for airport plan

THE Government's proposals for the expansion of Stansted Airport were thrown into turmoil last nightafter the High Court gave permission for two legal moves to challenge them.

THE Government's proposals for the expansion of Stansted Airport were thrown into turmoil last nightafter the High Court gave permission for two legal moves to challenge them.

A coalition of five district and county local authorities, including Essex County Council, secured leave to seek judicial review of the white paper which suggests an extra runway at Stansted is necessary.

Points raised by the councils include the concern that the plans put forward by BAA represent such a large "land grab" that the company will have the ability to eventually expand the airport capacity to 120 million passengers a year.

Another is a claim that because the plans are so specific, they effectively bypass the normal statutory planning process and the Environmental Impact Assessment required by European legislation.


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The councils also say that because neither the Government nor BAA know how the airport development infrastructure is to be funded, it could end up being a white elephant.

They say that the financing of the project is fundamental to the viability of the airport development and cannot be seen as a later exercise.

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Lord Hanningfield, Leader of Essex County Council, said: "The current financial position of a host of budget airlines raises yet further doubt about the financial viability of the Government's Stansted proposals.

"It also amounts to the Government's ripping up of its commitment to cutting 'greenhouse' gases."

As well as the consortium's hearing, another is due to take place mounted by the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign in conjunction with community groups from Luton and Heathrow and two London boroughs.

As part of this, the High Court will hear claims that the Air Transport White Paper published in December was fundamentally flawed and the conclusions it reached were irrational and inconsistent with the Government's own policies and with the consultation ground rules.

Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign director Carol Barbone said: "We are delighted that the High Court has agreed with us that the Government has a case to answer in relation to the many flaws and inconsistencies in the Air

Transport White Paper."

"We are determined to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court that no Government should be allowed to publish a White Paper which disregards the results of its own consultation and flouts the evidence."

No date has yet been set for the judicial review, but if successful, the Government would be forced to re-examine its aviation policy, and begin the consultation process all over again.

A spokesman for Stansted Airport said: "The legal challenges to the Government's Aviation White Paper were given permission to proceed to the High Court yesterday. These are challenges to the Government, and not BAA.

"We will continue to press ahead with our plans for a new runway at Stansted as these legal matters run their course.

"We are confident that the High Court will find in the Government's favour when judgement is given later in the year."

He added: "The decision to grant leave should in no way be interpreted as an indication of how the High Court will view these challenges, or be seen as favouring any particular outcome."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said it stood by its White Paper and was prepared to answer all the legal challenges in court.

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