Campaigners lose battle to end night flights

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The Independent Online

Campaigners today lost their battle with the UK Government to ban night flights at Heathrow, the UK's biggest airport.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that night flying did not breach citizens' right to the "peaceful enjoyment" of their homes.

Eight members of the Heathrow anti-noise group, HACAN ClearSkies, had originally won their case in Strasbourg last year.

But the UK Government appealed, arguing that an end to night flights would cause severe disruption to British airlines and give rival European airlines an unfair advantage.

One of the eight, Tony Anderson, 70, from Touchen End, Berkshire, said: "Naturally we are disappointed but we are not downhearted. We have had great support and loads of people feel very strongly about this."

HACAN took heart from what it interpreted as a judgment from Strasbourg today that campaigners should have been allowed to have the case heard in UK courts in recent years.

HACAN chairman John Stewart said today: "The Government wants to extend the present night-time flying regulations for London airports until 2005. We will use that extra year to try to make our case in the UK courts."

The group's vice-chairman Monica Robb said: "This is a part victory for us. We have been told we should be able to sort this out in British courts. The fight goes on."

Richard Buxton, HACAN's legal adviser, said: "This is a good judgment. It is a win rather than a lose."

There are currently 16 flights a night arriving at or departing from Heathrow between 11.30pm and 6am.

Any subsequent victory by anti-noise campaigners would lead to similar cases brought by residents living not only near UK airports but those living near European airports.

Martin Kessel, president of the Europe-wide anti-noise group UECNA, said in London today: "We shall go on fighting to get night flights banned."