SSE seeks leave to appeal ‘confusing’ High Court decision

13.3.2009   (Stop Stansted Expansion press release)

A High Court Judge has ruled that the Government’s decision to approve permission
for an extra ten million passengers a year at Stansted Airport was legal.  

The decision by Justice Sir Thane Forbes follows a four day hearing at the end
of February.   The wording of his judgment fails to provide the clarification which
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) was looking for when it brought the case and so
SSE is seeking leave to appeal.  

SSE’s primary concern was that the wording of the Government’s decision to approve
the extra 10 million passengers a year could compromise its case at any future
Public Inquiry to consider a second runway at Stansted.   There were also wider
implications for planning decisions across the UK.

The  3 issues on which SSE sought clarification were:  

1.         Whether the adverse aircraft noise impacts could be disregarded because
they were an unavoidable consequence of the Government’s policy to expand Stansted

2.         Whether the economic impact on the UK trade deficit, however adverse,
could be disregarded;

3.         Whether the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas
emissions, however substantial, could be disregarded in the decision to approve
the extra flights.

SSE welcomes the Judge’s ruling that the impact of the additional aircraft noise
which would ensue from the expansion of Stansted is a legitimate consideration
to be taken into account during the decision-making process.  
However, SSE believes it is illogical for the Judge to uphold the original decision
when the evidence suggests that the noise impacts were not properly taken into
account by the Government when reaching its decision to approve the extra 10 million
passengers a year at Stansted.

Regarding the adverse economic impact on the UK trade deficit, on the one hand
the Judge appears to agree with SSE that this should be taken into account in
the decision-making process but on the other hand he appears to be saying that
the trade deficit can be disregarded.

SSE is even more concerned about the Judge’s decision on the climate change issue
because it appears to mean that these wider environmental impacts of airport expansion
do not need to be taken into account when deciding whether planning permission
should be granted.  

SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone said:   "This High Court action was never
simply about winning or losing.   Our primary concern was to ensure that our main
battle against a second Stansted runway was not prejudiced by the wording of the
original decision.   However, today’s ruling seems to make matters even less clear
than they were before.   That is why we are seeking leave to appeal."




-The full ruling (Case CO/10952/2008) should be available online shortly on

or from or 01279 870558.

see also
Financial Times
Move to block Stansted expansion dismissed


By Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent

Published: March 14 2009
BAA is free to raise capacity at London Stansted airport by 40 per cent to 35m
passengers a year after an appeal against the expansion was defeated in the High
The airports operator faces tough financial penalties if its service to passengers
and airlines is poor, however, under a five-year price control regime for Stansted
announced separately on Friday by the Civil Aviation Authority. The new rules
are to be introduced next month.
Last October, ministers approved growth from the previous limit of 25m in spite
of opposition from environmental groups, councils and residents.
The Stop Stansted Expansion campaign mounted a challenge, saying the government
had breached the law by failing to take full account of the environmental and
economic impact of allowing more flights.
Sir Thayne Forbes, sitting as a judge of the High Court, said the protesters’
criticisms of the way in which the planning inquiry inspector and the transport
department had handled the issues were "without substance".
Nick Barton, commercial and development director at Stansted, said the social
and economic case for expansion of capacity from the single runway "remains strong".
Stansted can increase the maximum number of passengers using the airport on the
single runway from 25m to 35m, while the number of flights to and from the airport
can be increased from 241,000 to 264,000.
Passenger traffic at Stansted, the most important airport for low-cost airlines
in Europe, has been falling for more than a year. The number in the first two
months was 13.8 per cent lower than in the same period a year ago, and traffic
has been falling year-on-year for 16 months in succession. In the 12 months to
the end of February, Stansted handled 21.9m passengers.
Plans by BAA for a second runway and terminal face delays because of uncertainty
over future ownership of the airport.
The Competition Commission is to report next week on its two-year investigation
into the structure of BAA. It is expected to demand the break-up of the world’s
biggest airports operator – a subsidiary of Spain’s Ferrovial since 2006. The
commission is also likely to call for the sale of Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow
or Edinburgh.
The CAA, the airports economic regulator, said Stansted would be obliged to repay
charges totalling up to £10m ($14m)a year to airlines if it failed to meet the
terms of a new service regime.
Ryanair, the low-cost carrier, said the CAA’s proposal was "too little too late
after it has presided over years of abysmal service at Stansted and its history
of rubber stamping cost increases for airports".
see also
Woodland Trust campaigns blog
A slap in the face for the world
Bad news for those of us who care about our future. Today Stop Stansted Expansion, supported by the Woodland Trust,  Greenpeace, CPRE, FOE  and others lost their High Court appeal against the Government’s decision to
increase passenger numbers at Stansted.
High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes reportedly said SSE’s criticisms of the way
Geoff Hoon made this decision were "
unjustified and without substance".   One of the main criticisms made by those supporting the appeal was that the
Government had not taken into account the
climate change impacts of the proposed increase in passenger numbers.    If this has no substance then
what does?

SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone said:  "This High Court action was never
simply about winning or losing.  Our primary concern was to ensure that our main
battle against a second Stansted runway was not prejudiced by the wording of the
original decision.  However, today’s ruling seems to make matters even less clear
than they were before.  That is why we are seeking leave to appeal."

It does make you shake your head in disbelief when you see decisions like this
being made. This is in the same week when we were warned:

  • The Amazon rainforest could shrink by 85% due to climate change
  • Climate change could render half of the worlds inhabited areas unliveable; and
  • Scientists and economists warned that politicians hadn’t grasped the issue of climate change.

Instead of waking up and actually showing some leadership on this Geoff Hoon
and his colleagues are
burying their heads in the sand and seem to believe that someone else, somewhere else will be able to solve the
issue. Well I look forward to seeing this solution, but we need action from our
"leaders" if we’re going to make any headway.

Meanwhile the public inquiry into the second runway at Stansted has been put
back until after the Competition Commission reports on its recommendations which
will probably include a requirement for BAA to sell the airport.

see also   CPRE comment:



The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) [1] reacted with dismay to the failure
this morning (Friday) of the High Court legal challenge to block expansion at
Stansted Airport.

The Government’s decision in principle to approve Heathrow’s third runway was
described as ‘driving a coach and horses’ through London’s green plans [2].   However,
today’s failure of the appeal against Stansted expansion goes much further as
it sets a precedent.

CPRE had provided financial support to the challenge because of the important
legal principles it raised about protection of the countryside.   The legal action
challenged three aspects of the Government’s planning decision, which were that:

·               the increase in noise and damage to tranquillity from extra flights
had to be ignored in order to carry out Government policy to increase flying;

·               extra flights could be approved without any consideration of the impact
on climate change;

·               the economic impact on the UK could be disregarded.   This has a particular
impact on rural areas as domestic tourism provides a financial lifeline.
Ralph Smyth, CPRE’s Senior Transport Campaigner said:
‘Today’s decision flies a jumbo jet through commitments to reduce noise and greenhouse
gas emissions.   The Government can’t keep on relying on its outdated aviation
policy [3], which is damaging countryside, the climate and the economy.   The recent
drop in passenger numbers travelling by air provides a perfect opportunity for
an urgent rethink.’
– END –