Air campaigners celebrate review

PROTESTERS against plans to expand some of Britain's busiest airports have won a High Court challenge after it ruled there should be a judicial review.

PROTESTERS against plans to expand some of Britain's busiest airports have won a High Court challenge after it ruled there should be a judicial review.

The High Court ruled Government plans for additional runways at Essex and Heathrow are lawful.

But a judge allowed a challenge by Essex residents and local authorities who were given a say over where the Stansted runway should go and how much land it uses up.

Campaigners hailed the decision, which will see a review of government proposals to expand major airports including Stansted, Heathrow and Luton, as a "victory for local democracy".

They claimed the government ignored its own rule that airport expansion must be commercially justifiable.

Transport Secretary Alistair 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.

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"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.''

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 and claimed 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.

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.

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

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