Legal challenges planned for runway

AS the reality of a second runway at Stansted sinks in, pressure groups and councils across Essex are now exploring every legal avenue to scupper the plans.

AS the reality of a second runway at Stansted sinks in, pressure groups and councils across Essex are now exploring every legal avenue to scupper the plans.

The Stop Stansted Expansion campaign (SSE) has stated it is ready for court action and to challenge the content of the aviation White Paper.

It is committed to pursuing a challenge to a second Stansted runway through legal, regulatory and planning routes, notably the UK and European courts and authorities, as well as the European Commission.

"The phoney war is over and now the real battle begins," said chairman Norman Mead.

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A spokesman said: "SSE is ready for court action on other fronts, too, and stands ready to challenge the content of the White Paper in other ways."

Areas the campaign will be studying will include possible breaches of the EU air quality directive; the fact major expansion of Stansted Airport has already been considered by two separate public inquiries and a Royal Commission – and always rejected because environmental costs greatly outweighed the benefits; complaining to the Competition Authorities in the UK and in the EU on the grounds BAA has a dominant position in the operation of airports in the south east and is abusing its market dominance; or a judicial review.

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Many legislative constraints and other challenges would have to be overcome before a new runway could be built at Stansted and there would inevitably be a public inquiry to examine any application in detail.

A campaign spokesman said: "What is clear, however, is that surface access and air quality issues would be a major barrier to early development of an additional runway at Stansted.

"Similarly, legal challenges on competition grounds are likely to be pursued both by SSE and the aviation industry itself which would be very likely to prevent such development."

Essex County Council is also currently examining the possibility of court action.

Tory leader Lord Hanningfield said: "We will be consulting lawyers to examine the possibility of mounting a legal challenge to this proposal.

"The spacing of the proposed runway is particularly worrying. Its proposed location maximizes the blight on the local environment and residents while taking as much space as possible to allow for further runways to be added without acquiring more land.

"The case for expansion is far from proven and, perhaps more importantly, the airline industry simply does not seem to want expansion at Stansted."

Also employing experts to sift through the paperwork to find any possible legal loopholes is Uttlesford District Council – the authority which will ultimately deal with the runway planning application.

Liberal Democrat leader Alan Dean said: "Stansted remains the subject of expansion speculation and the council is prepared to fight on behalf of its residents, their quality of life and the region's heritage."

Also at odds with his party over the expansion plans is Braintree MP Alan Hurst.

He said: "I'm very disappointed as I'm sure many people are in north-west Essex. But we may have lost the first round but there are many more rounds to go.

"There is just no economic case for an extra runway and I do not think it will ever be built because the aircraft industry does not want it and they have to pay for it, not the Government."

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