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.

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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

Monday, March 8, 2010

Manchester Evening News front page exclusive

From the Manchester Evening News

Manchester Airport 'to be as busy as Heathrow'
Exclusive by Alice McKeegan

8th March 2010

Manchester Airport will double the number of flights it handles and become as busy as Heathrow is today, the government has predicted.

According to the official forecast, there will be 449,000 take offs and landings at Manchester by 2050 – up from 213,000 in 2005.

It would mean a flight taking off or landing on average every 70 seconds.

The forecast was published in a report to the Committee on Climate Change and has been described as ‘shocking’ by opponents of the airport’s expansion.

Campaigners warned that the surge in air traffic would lead to another terminal being built at Manchester, although airport chiefs denied the claim.

The Department for Transport put forward the predictions as part of efforts to determine Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions. They predict Manchester will be the fastest growing of the four biggest airports in Britain and will overtake Gatwick to become the second busiest. By 2050, it is predicted to handle as many flights as Heathrow does now.

But Heathrow is also forecast to expand, albeit at a slower rate than Manchester, and will still be the country’s busiest airport, with just over 700,000 flights.

Lib Dem councillor Martin Eakins, who has campaigned against airport expansion, said: “Nobody I’ve spoken to was aware of the extent to which Manchester Airport hopes to expand, indeed those I’ve told are both shocked and stunned by the news. The wider community should be consulted as homes under or near flight paths will surely lose their value due to the increased noise and pollution.

“Manchester council, which jointly owns the airport, should come clean and assess the impact these extra flights would cause before pressing ahead.”

Robbie Gillett from the Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport pressure group said: “It’s time to update our thinking about airport expansion. We need to create jobs in low carbon industries and move away from this ‘all-growth-is-good-growth’ mentality.”

The figures are included in a report by the Committee on Climate Change. It warns that Britain’s aviation demand could grow more than 200 per cent over the next 40 years and the number of passengers could rise from 230m to 695m per year.

That would threaten the government’s aim to keep carbon dioxide emissions at or below 2005 levels and put Britain 600,000 take-offs and landings over the target limit.

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “We welcomed the report published by the Committee on Climate Change and as an industry pledged again to reduce levels of carbon dioxide emissions substantially in the years ahead. Aviation holds a key role, not only in providing essential transport links that enable economies to grow, but in bringing important benefits to society, the value of which should not be underestimated.”

MEN EDITORIAL - Monday 8th March 2010