High Court challenge over Stansted

CAMPAIGNERS have today lodged a High Court challenge over the government's go-ahead for Stansted airport to expand.

Richard Cornwell

CAMPAIGNERS have today lodged a High Court challenge over the government's go-ahead for Stansted airport to expand.

Ministers have approved proposals which will allow ten million extra passengers a year to use the airport's current runway - sending thousands more planes over Suffolk each year and increasing the noise nuisance for many communities.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) hopes its legal action will stop the plan.

Peter Sanders, Chairman of the group, said: “We have no choice but to mount a legal challenge to this decision.

“When it reaches the stage where the government is prepared to disregard the climate change impacts, the noise impacts and even the interests of the UK economy in order to satisfy its obsession for airport expansion, then it is time to ask the High Court to intervene.

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“The issues at stake here go far wider than Stansted.”

The legal challenge will be hugely expensive and SSE is hoping it will receive public support to enable the action to take place.

“This will be a major strain on our financial resources especially since we also face the prospect of having to contest plans for a second Stansted runway at a major public inquiry next year,” said Mr Sanders.

“We are therefore appealing to the public for their support.”

SSE's legal action will challenge three aspects of the government's decision to approve the extra ten million passengers a year and the extra flights:

that the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions, however substantial, can be disregarded in the decision to approve the extra flights;

that the economic impact on the UK trade deficit, however adverse, can be disregarded;

that the adverse noise impacts upon local residents and people living further afield cannot amount to a reason for refusal because to do so would frustrate government policy.

Having taken counsel's advice - lawyers Paul Stinchcombe and Sarah Hannett, of Grays Inn Square, London - SSE considers the government's reasoning on the three points to be wrong in law and in breach of clear assurances previously provided.

It says if the government's decision is allowed to go unchallenged, it could have national repercussions as well as impacts on the case against a second runway at Stansted.

The action comes just days after it was confirmed a public inquiry into BAA's plans for a second runway at Stansted will start in April 2009.

Announcing the airport expansion last month, aviation minister Jim Fitzpatrick said there was an “urgent need” for additional runway capacity in the south east.

“We recognise that there have been strong views expressed about Stansted's expansion and all views were given the chance to be heard at the public inquiry,” he said.

“Ministers thought long and hard about the case before making their decision to allow an increase of a little under ten per cent in the maximum permitted number of flights to and from the airport from 241,000 to 264,000 air traffic movements a year.”