Monday, March 29, 2010

High Court rules against the government's third runway decision

From the Sunday Times

Sunday 28th March 2010

CO2 ruling may halt new airport runways

By Steven Swinford and Chris Gourlay

CAMPAIGNERS will seek to block airport expansion across Britain following a High Court judgment which criticised the government’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow.

Environmental groups linked to Stansted, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and a string of other airports hope to use the ruling to launch fresh challenges against plans for mass growth in flights and passenger numbers.

The judgment on Friday 26th March found that ministers had failed to take account of new, legally binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when they approved the expansion of Heathrow.

It comes after a two-year campaign by The Sunday Times revealed how BAA, the owner of Heathrow, colluded with the government to build the case for passenger growth.

Justine Greening, a Tory frontbencher who has led opposition to the third runway, said: “This ruling has profound consequences for airport expansion, not just at Heathrow but across the country. The law is there to protect people from overpowerful and vested interests and Friday’s ruling was a victory for the people.”

The government’s case for expanding Heathrow hinged on a seven-year-old aviation white paper. A coalition of local councils, residents and green groups argued that it failed to take into account statutory limits on CO2 emissions that were introduced in 2008.

Lord Justice Carnwath agreed, saying the government’s position was “untenable” and should be reviewed. The judge said: “Common sense demanded that a policy established in 2003, before important developments in climate change policy, should be subject to review in light of these developments.”

Carnwath declined to rule that Heathrow’s third runway should be abandoned, but the verdict could still have repercussions across the country.

At Stansted, BAA has announced plans for a second runway which would see passenger numbers rise from 24m to 68m by 2030. Carol Barbone, the director of Stop Stansted Expansion, said: “Without the security blanket of government policy to rely on, BAA knows its chances of securing a favourable result from a public inquiry are extremely doubtful.”

Activists believe that plans for a second runway at Birmingham international airport, outlined in the 2003 aviation white paper, are now dead in the water. Proposals to increase the number of passengers at Bristol international airport from 6.2m to 10m by 2020, currently being considered by the local council, could now be challenged. Carnwath’s ruling could also scupper the introduction of more flights at Manchester airport, Southend airport in Essex and Biggin Hill in Kent.

It means that proposals by this newspaper and backed by Boris Johnson, the London mayor, for a four-runway island airport in the Thames estuary are now highly unlikely to proceed. However, Manchester city council has already approved plans for its airport to expand to handle up to 50m passengers a year by 2030.

Robbie Gillett, spokesman for the Stop Expansion At Manchester Airport coalition, said: “The expansion plans are based on outdated thinking. This ruling gives us strong grounds to challenge further growth.”

Under the climate change act, Britain is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by an average of 80% from 1990 levels. Ministers denied that Carnwath’s decision represented a setback but said that aviation policy will be re-examined in 2011 when the new climate targets will be taken into account.

Click here to read the rest of the article

Related articles:

Manchester Evening News - "Manchester Airport urged to put expansion plans on hold" - 28th March 2010

"It's not just about airports" - The Telegraph - 26th March 2010


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