Stansted battle off to the High Court

ANTI Stansted expansion campaigners will take their objections to the High Court tomorrow in a bid to prevent the airport from increasing its passenger numbers by 10 million.

Annie Davidson

ANTI Stansted expansion campaigners will take their objections to the High Court tomorrow in a bid to prevent the airport from increasing its passenger numbers by 10 million.

A three-day hearing will challenge the legality of a decision by the Government to allow an increase of 63 flights per day which was made in October last year.

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon and local government secretary Hazel Blears approved BAA's expansion plans which would mean the airport's approved passenger capacity increase from 25 million to 35 million.

The application had originally been turned down by Uttlesford District Council and the Government go-ahead had followed a planning inquiry earlier in 2008.

Tomorrow the legal challenge, bought by campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion, will begin and is expected to be heard by Sir Thayne Forbes at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

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His decision on the appeal is expected within a couple of weeks.

Stop Stansted Expansion's objection centres on three key parts of the Government's decision to allow the extra passengers which the group claimed were “wrong in law and in breach of clear assurances previously provided by the Government that, although its policy was to support the expansion of Stansted Airport, any specific proposal would still be subject to rigorous examination at a planning inquiry, where all the environmental and economic impacts would be fully considered”.

Campaign director Carol Barbone said: “If allowed to go unchallenged the Government's decision could have national repercussions as well as impacts on the case against a second runway at Stansted which is due to be heard at a public inquiry currently scheduled to begin in April.”

Stop Stansted Expansion has been supported in its efforts by environmental groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Aviation Environment Federation.

Anti-expansion protestors will hold a rally outside the High Court tomorrow to support their legal case.

Dr Rupert Read, prospective MEP for the Eastern Region Green Party, who is attending the rally, said: “We strongly support the long-standing efforts of Stop Stansted Expansion to thwart the might of the BAA and the Government.

“We live in strange times.

“On the one hand, the UK Government states, in the strongest terms, that it fully accepts the scientific case that manmade climate change is a major threat and that it intends to substantially cut the UK's CO2 emissions.

“On the other hand, the same Government is pushing ahead with plans to expand Heathrow and Stansted and also supports a raft of other airport expansions, in the full knowledge that this will increase UK CO2 emissions by millions of tonnes per year.”

BAA has said increasing the passenger numbers secured the airport's future after long-term forecasts predicted passenger growth.

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