Councils plan new court challenge to revised airport plans

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The Independent Online

The Government's controversial plans to expand airport capacity face fresh legal action that would plunge the strategy into disarray.

The Government's controversial plans to expand airport capacity face fresh legal action that would plunge the strategy into disarray.

A group of local authorities and campaigners advised by Peter Carter-Ruck, once one of Britain's most feared libel lawyers, are expected to take court action against the Government, claiming ministers have failed to examine seriously all the options for a new international airport.

A consultation exercise into the future of air travel was scrapped last November after a High Court ruling described it as "irrational and unfair'' because it excluded the option of an extra runway at Gatwick.

The revised consultation document will keep the option of building an international "hub" at Cliffe in Kent but will not seriously entertain any other possibility. Leaders of local authorities who are promoting the idea of a third international airport believe the Government has included Cliffe with the intention of rejecting it. Environment groups say an airport would destroy a world-renowned nesting area for wading birds. The councils hope other potential sites can still be included although they believe ministers have made up their minds.

Campaigners against the plan for up to three extra runways at Stansted, Essex, are expected to join fresh litigation against the Government.

Mr Carter-Ruck yesterday confirmed that there was "every possibility'' of further proceedings seeking a judicial review of the new consultation exercise. He said there could also be an application under the Human Rights Act because of the impact additional capacity at Stansted would have on quality of life.