Today in Court - Heathrow challenge

the Council updates Putney residents


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The Court of Appeal today warned that ministers must approach their forthcoming consultation on plans for extended use of Heathrow's two runways with 'open-minded deliberation.'

Wandsworth Council had asked the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the High Court's refusal to order a re-run of the
Government's original consultation which preceded publication of its
airports white paper.

The council's legal team argued that the public had been deprived of the chance to put forward their own alternatives to proposals spelt out in the white paper for increased use of the existing runways during the day.

The Government wants the north and south runways to be used in tandem for landings and take offs. This, together with a new sixth terminal to the north of the airport, could allow Heathrow to accommodate an extra 35 million passengers a year.

This intensification of use would be achieved long before the third
runway, also proposed in the white paper, could be built.

Because landings are currently alternated between the two runways at 3pm each day residents under the flight path gain noise relief for half the day. This respite could be severely cut back if both were used in parallel for longer periods.

Council leader Edward Lister said, "We asked the courts to rule on whether it was fair for the Government to suddenly introduce plans for extra capacity at Heathrow before the people worst affected by the change had been invited to comment.

"We were concerned because the extra capacity envisaged is equivalent to an airport the size of Gatwick. The effect of these extra flights would be to cut short the respite residents currently get when landings are switched between runways and bring forward the prospect of non-stop aircraft noise in south and west London from 4.30am to 11pm."

Lord Justice Sedley said the Government was entitled to introduce new options when finalising its white paper but said that it must now consult on these with 'open-minded deliberation.'

He added that the 'die (was) not cast' and that there was 'still much to play for' in the consultation and political processes. The courts remained there to ensure that the consultation was 'properly dealt with.'

The consultation could now take place later this year. Lord Justice Sedley refused the council permission for an appeal. He was supported by Lord Justice Brooke.

September 27, 2005