Manchester airport to get second runway

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The Independent Online
Ministers are set to give the go-ahead for the second runway at Manchester airport, allowing it to take up to 30 million passengers per year by 2005, double the present total.

The second runway was the subject of a 101-day public inquiry which ended last summer. The inspector's report, giving approval for the scheme, is expected to be published today.

Supporters of the new runway argued that it will create thousands of local jobs and is essential for the economic well-being of the area.

Nevertheless, it has been bitterly opposed by local community groups who claimed it would cause widespread environmental damage. Jeff Gazzard, who lives under the flightpath and who is spokesman for the Manchester Airport Environment Network (Maen) said: "This will ruin our area. An ancient woodland, twenty houses, six of them listed, and a thousand acres of green-belt land are being sacrificed."

Mr Gazzard said that Maen would be looking closely at the report and would seek a judicial review in the High Court if there was any suspicion that procedures had not been properly followed.

The highly profitable airport is owned by a consortium of ten local authorities and the councils have resisted efforts by the Government to force them to privatise it.

Manchester airport is the third largest in the United Kingdom, after Gatwick and Heathrow, and caters for charter and long-haul flights. The new two-mile runway will allow the number of take-offs and landings to increase from 41 per hour to a maximum of 68 to 70. It will cost pounds 170m to build and will be a blow to nearby Liverpool which had hoped to expand its own airport as an alternative.

The Government approval will be accompanied by strict environmental conditions, but Mr Gazzard says that these are irrelevant.

"We have lost the battle because we are 200 miles away from London," he said. "This would never be allowed in the south-east where Gatwick and Stansted have been protected from having second runways."