Wandsworth Council Takes Government To High Court

as part of a group legal challenge to a 3rd runway at Heathrow


Alistair McGowan outside the High Courts with representatives from Councils & pressure Groups against 3rd runway

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Further information on the effects of runway alternation is available at www.hacan.org.uk

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Wandsworth Council & Hacan apply for a judicial review

Lister - runway news 'as bad as it gets'

Wandsworth is part of a coalition of local councils, green groups and local residents, representing millions of people, has brought a legal challenge against the Government’s decision to give the green light to third runway at Heathrow airport. The case is being heard today at the High Court. It is expected to last for 3 days. The Government and BAA claim that a third runway won’t breach air and noise quality limits, and won’t undermine the UK’s fight against climate change. But the facts suggest otherwise.
A spokesman for the Council said:

"Bolting on an airport the size of Gatwick to the existing airport at Heathrow will certainly destroy local communities, and increase noise, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

In an attempt to contain this environmental damage, the
Government has proposed limits in all three areas – but meeting these limits would require operating restrictions that destroy the economic case for a 3rd runway. There is no such thing as a green runway, and the Government has misled the public and Parliament by claiming there can be."

Speaking on behalf of the local councils Wandsworth leader Edward Lister said:
“We’ve had no choice but to go to court to sort out the mess left behind by a decision that was little more than a quick fix. From the moment Geoff Hoon announced his decision to the House, it has steadily unravelled. We now have the Government’s lawyers telling us that what the Secretary of State told MPs was not what he really meant."

He continued:
“The history of Heathrow expansion is littered with broken promises, that’s why it’s so important we get the courts to sort out the deliberate ambiguity of the Government’s decisions.”

Lawyers representing the coalition will argue that the Heathrow decision which the government announced in January 2009 is fundamentally different from the proposals on which the Government originally consulted, meaning the consultation was deeply flawed and the decision unlawful.

After a high-profile campaign leading to reported splits and arguments in cabinet, the decision announced by Geoff Hoon included a number of additional measures presumably designed to appease the green lobby.

The Government now say they will allocate extra capacity via something they call “green slots” which, they argue, would only allow the most efficient planes to use the new runway, and they have promised to limit growth according to carbon reduction targets, announcing a new target to keep UK aviation emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.

The Government also announced to Parliament that only half of the capacity of the new runway will be used, pending a review in 2020 of whether environmental conditions can be met with full use of the runway. Finally, the government failed to properly consider how the millions of extra passengers generated by the runway would access Heathrow. The Piccadilly line, for example, would not be able to cope and expensive transport upgrades may well be required – though they were not considered in the consultation.

These and other issues call into question the rationale for the third runway – if the Government’s promises are to be believed, they intend to allow a runway to be built without an economic case to support it, and with little resemblance to the proposal consulted on. If the Government’s commitments are not legally binding, whoever is in power when the runway is built will come under enormous commercial pressure to abandon them in order to make the runway economically viable.

With the environmental case for airport expansion already fatally undermined by the Committee on Climate Change’s report, which limited the allowable growth in flights to half of that proposed in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper (the policy justification for expanding Heathrow), the Government’s incoherent, piecemeal and reactive approach to emission limits and aviation growth has led to a plan for a third runway with no solid democratic, economic or environmental rationale.

June 21, 2010