Councils take legal action on night flights

12.3.2008   (Guardian)

Three local authorities are to take the government to the high court in an attempt
to stop night flights which they claim break noise regulations. Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead councils have campaigned against night flights at Heathrow for several years
and claim that the transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, is “failing in her duty to
protect residents from excessive night noise”.

With the support of the other two councils, Richmond, in south-west London, will seek a judicial review at the high court on May 20th.

 It will argue that “the current night flights regime is illegal as some of the
flights are noisier than are allowed by the government’s own rules”.

It hopes that Kelly will be forced to cut the number of aircraft allowed to land
at Heathrow before 6am.

Environmental groups have claimed that an independent study commissioned by the
government and published last November showed that millions of people were affected
by aircraft noise.

Richmond council’s leader, Serge Lourie, said: “This challenge is another important
step along the road to our ultimate goal – a total ban on night flights.”

The three councils are members of an all-party group of local authorities in
London and the south-east called 2M, which opposes the further expansion of Heathrow on environmental grounds.

Wandsworth council also favours a total ban on night flights.   The borough lies east of
the southern runway at Heathrow and the council claims that many aircraft make
their descent over large parts of Clapham, Battersea, Wandsworth and Putney.  
The legal challenge is also being backed by the Greater London authority and Kensington
and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, and Hillingdon councils.

Last night a spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “The secretary
of state’s decision on night flights followed an extensive two-stage public consultation.
The department has and will continue to defend the secretary of state’s decision,
but it would be inappropriate to comment further, given that the matter is continuing
in the courts.”