Stansted airport expansion timing in doubt

26.2.2009   (FT)

By Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent

The timing of the expansion of Stansted airport was thrown into doubt on Tuesday
as opponents went to the high court to seek to overturn the government’s recent
backing for raising the limit on flights.

Airlines operating at the airport, led by Ryanair and EasyJet, as well as local campaigners, have also written to ministers seeking to postpone
by up to a year the opening of the planning inquiry into BAA’s plans to build
a second runway and terminal at Stansted.

BAA won government approval last October to raise the limit on passenger capacity for the existing single
runway by 40 per cent from 25m to 35m a year.

The Stop Stansted Expansion campaign began a three-day hearing in the high court
on Tuesday to overturn the decision.

It is claiming the government breached the law by failing to take full account
of the environmental and economic impact.

The public inquiry into the second runway and terminal, due to open in mid-April,
is being threatened chiefly by the change of ownership of Stansted that is expected
to be forced by the long-running investigation into BAA by the Competition Commission.

The competition watchdog is expected to call in its final report, due early next
month, for the airports operator to be broken up, with the sale of three of its
seven UK airports – Gatwick, Stansted and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

BAA has already pre-empted the findings of the two-year probe by launching the
sale of Gatwick, the second largest UK airport.

The process is well advanced and BAA has called for final, binding offers for
Gatwick from a shortlist of three rival consortia by March 30 with the aim of
completing the sale by late May.

At Stansted the ownership issue is overshadowing the plan to expand capacity,
which the government has supported since the publication of the air transport
white paper in December 2003.

The Stansted airlines consultative committee has written to Hazel Blears, communities
and local government secretary, urging the postponement of the public inquiry
by at least 12 months.


see also

SSE press release     23.2.2009





The Appeal by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) challenging the Government’s recent
decision to sanction BAA’s application for an additional 10 million passengers
a year on Stansted Airport’s runway will be heard over three days this week –
Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 February – in the High Court, London).


(a few minutes walk from the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand)

The case has been assigned to be heard by Sir Thayne Forbes (subject to change),
recently retired High Court Judge, with a decision expected to be forthcoming
very shortly thereafter.

If SSE succeeds in its challenge to the legality of the process by which the
increase in Stansted’s capacity was approved, it would result in the decision
to allow Stansted to handle an additional 10 million passengers a year being quashed.


SSE’s legal action [CO/10952/2008: Carol Barbone and Brian Ross (on behalf of
Stop Stansted Expansion)] challenges three aspects of the Government’s decision
to approve an extra 10 million passengers a year and the related extra flights
on Stansted’s runway:

1. That the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions,
however substantial, can be disregarded in the decision to approve the extra flights;

2. That the economic impact on the UK trade deficit, however adverse, can be

3. That the adverse noise impacts upon local residents and people living further
afield cannot amount to a reason for refusal because to do so would frustrate
Government policy.

SSE considers the Government’s reasoning on the above three points to be wrong
in law and in breach of clear assurances previously provided by the Government
that although its policy was to support the expansion of Stansted Airport, any
specific proposal would still be subject to rigorous examination at a planning
inquiry, where all the environmental and economic impacts would be fully considered.
If allowed to go unchallenged, the Government’s decision could have national repercussions
as well as impacts on the case against a second runway at Stansted which is due
to be heard at a Public Inquiry currently scheduled to begin in April.

Because of the wider implications, major national environmental groups are supporting
SSE’s decision to mount this High Court challenge and in some cases have provided
financial support. Those who support SSE in this matter include the Campaign to
Protect Rural England (CPRE), Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace,
Aviation Environment Federation, HACAN Clear Skies [Heathrow], ReStoreUK, Ramblers
Association, and the World Development Movement.

SSE is advised in this matter by barristers Mr Paul Stinchcombe and Ms Sarah
Hannett of 4-5 Grays Inn Square, London and solicitors Leigh Day & Co, St
John’s Lane, London.