Stop Stansted campaigners to fight on

CAMPAIGNERS last night vowed to appeal against a judge's dismissal of their High Court bid to block the expansion of Stansted Airport.

Roddy Ashworth

CAMPAIGNERS last night vowed to appeal against a judge's dismissal of their High Court bid to block the expansion of Stansted Airport.

The Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) group was opposing proposals for an additional 10 million passengers a year to use the single, existing runway at the Essex airport.

SSE, which had previously unsuccessfully opposed the expansion scheme at a public inquiry, had accused the Government of unlawfully “steamrollering these plans every step of the way”.

But High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes dismissed the legal challenge and said criticisms of the way the matter had been handled were “unjustified and without substance”.

The judge refused permission to appeal, but SSE said it would approach the Court of Appeal within the next few weeks with a written submission to re-apply.

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The SSE legal team had asked the judge to quash decisions made last October by the Transport Secretary and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in which they allowed airport owner BAA's appeal against a refusal of Uttlesford District Council, the local planning authority, to permit the proposed increase in passenger numbers and flights.

Following the judge's ruling that the Government's decision to approve permission had been legal, the SSE campaign director Carol Barbone said: “This High Court action was never simply about winning or losing.

“Our primary concern was to ensure that our main battle against a second Stansted runway was not prejudiced by the wording of the original decision.

“However, today's ruling seems to make matters even less clear than they were before. That is why we are seeking leave to appeal.”

The group was ordered to pay the Government's legal costs from the High Court hearing up to an agreed limit of �20,000.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We welcome the court's dismissal of this appeal on all grounds and its recognition that we acted properly.

“Runway capacity in the South East is scarce so we believe it is right best use is made of the existing runway at Stansted.”

BAA Stansted's commercial and development director Nick Barton said: “We are very pleased with today's decision, it's the right decision and one we fully expected.

“The social and economic case for G1 (expansion) remains strong, and our plans were endorsed by a full and independent public inquiry and a recommendation for approval by the planning inspector.

“As a result, this is a very good day for the millions of people who need and want to fly to visit their friends and family, go on well-earned holidays or travel on business.”

Yesterday's ruling came just a few days before an expected Competition Commission report on airport ownership, which is almost certain to say that BAA must sell Gatwick and Stansted Airports.

A public inquiry is also to be held into separate proposals for a second runway at Stansted.

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