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Challenge to Heathrow plans

A coalition of councils, residents and green groups has launched long-anticipated legal action against the Government's decision to approve a major expansion of Heathrow.

Thirteen organisations, including the RSPB, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace and the M group of west London councils, argue that the decision to build a third runway and sixth terminal would break regulations on noise, air quality and carbon emissions, while the economic case for expansion was never proven. They also argue that the Government never properly consulted on its compromise to run the third runway at half capacity.

The group has now sent legal papers to the High Court, requesting a judicial review of the decision made by Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary.

If a judicial review is granted, the Government could ultimately be forced to re-run its public consultation on the expansion plans. The legal action has the backing of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Hillingdon council leader Ray Puddifoot, speaking for the M group, said that the number of organisations backing the challenge was "unprecedented", while Greenpeace's executive director John Sauven said expanding Heathrow was "completely at odds" with the need to reduce carbon emissions.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We set out our reasons for supporting a third runway at Heathrow when we announced our decisions on expansion. We stand by those decisions."