Government advice on third runway was 'unfair'

Devisive plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport were given "conspicuously unfair" approval by the Government after it ignored its own targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions, the High Court has been told.

The court action opposing the runway and the construction of a sixth terminal at Britain's largest airport was launched yesterday by a coalition of local councils, green groups and thousands of residents. A Labour MP also warned that public unrest or a change of Government would ultimately doom the project.

The coalition is calling on the court to block the development and force the Department for Transport (DfT) to carry out a new public consultation into the expansion of Heathrow. Nigel Pleming QC, appearing for the group, said that the Government had failed to provide sufficient details on how air quality and sound level caps could be met, and had neglected to take account of its own CO2 limit for aviation. Under the target, aviation emissions have to be reduced to 2005 levels by 2050.

He also said that the plans approved in January 2009 by the former Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, were not outlined in the Government's official consultation. "There was a consultation process here, but the decision made was fundamentally different from the subject matter of the consultation," he said. "That difference was such as to make it conspicuously unfair."

John McDonnell MP, warned his party's leadership yesterday that the third runway would be stopped. "If this court case fails to halt the third runway then either a hung Parliament or civil unrest and protest definitely will," he said. "Both the main political parties need to accept that the runway project is dead. The present government will not be able to go ahead with it and the Tories will not, as predicted, be able to reverse their current opposition." John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said it had been "clear from the start" that opposition to the runway would be overwhelming.

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