Residents take London airports challenge to court

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Residents' groups and local councils were today taking their challenge to the Government's aviation White Paper to the High Court.

Residents' groups and local councils were today taking their challenge to the Government's aviation White Paper to the High Court.

The judicial review, to be heard by Mr Justice Sullivan, was centring on the Government's plans for expansion at Heathrow, Stansted and Luton airports.

Scores of residents opposed to Stop Stansted Expansion supporters were leaving for London from Essex early today on a coach decorated with banners and posters.

Other anti-Stansted expansion protestors were demonstrating with banners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

As well as the Stop Stansted Expansion group, those challenging the Government's aviation plans include Heathrow anti-noise campaigners HACAN Clearskies and the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Wandsworth.

Stop Stansted Expansion says the Government's White Paper, published in December 2003, is "fundamentally flawed".

It "reached its conclusions in material breach of the process which should have been followed in the consultation and made substantial changes in the course of the consultation which the public were not advised about and therefore were not able to comment upon".

The High Court challenge will highlight what anti-expansion groups see as key "flaws" in the White Paper. These include:

:: The absence of a commercial justification for a second Stansted runway, contrary to the Government's own requirements for the consultation;

:: The failure to make clear in the consultation that the ending of the practice of using runways in alternation at Heathrow - a method of ensuring some respite from overflying for people living in west London - could be a short-term alternative to a third runway;

:: The failure to consult on the extended runway proposals put forward for Luton (the consultation examined two completely different options for expanding the airport);

:: The failure to provide information to the public about alternative development proposals for airports which had been submitted or to give proper consideration to these options and the failure to inform or consult the public about other fundamental shifts in the Government's position which took place during the course of the consultation.

Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Peter Sanders said: "We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge before us because the courts have never before overturned a Government White Paper.

"However, we believe that in this particular case we can clearly demonstrate to the High Court that the Government's enthusiasm to sanction massive airport expansion in south-east England resulted in its bungling and bulldozing its way through to the White Paper, ignoring proper processes and its own ground rules and chopping and changing the issues under consideration without consulting or even informing the public of the changes."

HACAN chairman John Stewart said: "Almost exactly a year ago the Government published its 30-year aviation White Paper with much fanfare. It hoped that would be the end of the debate and it could proceed with its plans for a massive expansion of aviation.

"Yet, a year later the protesters are still here, and stronger than ever. Our message is clear: we stand united against the Government's proposals for airport expansion."

Mr Justice Sullivan is expected to give his judgment in early February 2005.