Air campaign answer due

CAMPAIGNERS protesting over moves to increase the number of planes in the skies over Britain are today set to find out if they have won a vital dogfight.

CAMPAIGNERS protesting over moves to increase the number of planes in the skies over Britain are today set to find out if they have won a vital dogfight.

The High Court was due to announce the result of a judicial review of plans to expand air travel - including building another runway at Stansted and increasing the number of flights in UK airspace from two million to three million a year.

Families in Suffolk are already suffering from more planes over-flying towns and countryside because the county is on flightpaths for popular destinations.

The Evening Star's Air Fair campaign is highlighting the growth in air traffic following changes last year to the region's airspace to increase the possible number of flights per day by 30 per cent.

Planes are now permitted to fly 5,000 ft lower over the county, and experts say it means around 1,200 planes a day over east Suffolk - including Felixstowe and north Ipswich - though none of the authorities can say exactly how many there are because no-one counts them.

Three legal challenges were brought by airport campaign groups, councils and two businessmen over the government's 2003 Aviation White Paper.

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The claims included that government failed to adequately consult on all options for airport expansion, there is a questionable economic case for a second runway at Stansted, and there was no environmental impact assessment required by European Law.

It is the first time a government white paper has been challenged in this way and today's findings of the judicial review are being watched closely.

As well as the proposed 50pc increase in air traffic by 2012, the white paper proposes at least three new runways and expansion of many other airports.

Justice Sullivan, who will make the ruling today, could reject the legal challenges, find in favour of the objectors or accept some of their points.

If the government loses on some or all of the points, it is likely to go to the Court of Appeal. Ultimately it could be forced to withdraw and re-issue the white paper after a fresh public consultation.

Campaign group Friends of the Earth would like to see a re-issued white paper cancel all new runways, ensure carbon dioxide emissions from aviation are stabilised or reduced to meet climate change targets, and ensure "the polluter pays" principle is applied to the aviation industry.

FoE aviation campaigner Richard Dyer said: "These legal challenges are a vital test of whether ministers followed correct procedures in drawing up the aviation white paper.

"But whatever the result, opposition to the government's reckless aviation policy will continue to grow.

"The government must listen and scale down its expansion plans which pose an unacceptable threat to the environment and communities."

What do you think of the number of planes in our skies? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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