Wandsworth Council & Hacan apply for a judicial review

as they claim the consultation procedure was unfair


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Lister - runway news 'as bad as it gets'

No third runway for at least a decade

Associated articles on this issue

London Together Against a Third Runway

Tony Colman less gloomy about 3rd runway

Night flights & daytime noise set to grow

The Government's consultation on airport expansion options for the South East failed to disclose a plan to end the current practice of runway alternation at Heathrow which would expose west London residents to longer periods of noise throughout the day.

The previously concealed threat only became apparent when ministers published their aviation white paper in December last year.

Because aircraft use one of Heathrow's two runways for landings and the other for take-offs this enables them to switch operations at 3pm each day. The change-over provides respite from planes landing overhead for people under the flightpath.

Although the white paper calls for a third runway at Heathrow by 2015 it wants to maximise use of the airport before then by allowing aircraft to land and take off from the same runway. Using the two runways in parallel in this way would mean more plans coming in over west London for longer periods during the day.

The lack of fairness in the consultation leading up to the white paper is a key ground in an application for judicial review launched today by a group comprising Wandsworth and Hillingdon councils and airport campaigners representing communities around Heathrow (HACAN), Stansted (SSE) and Luton (LADACAN).

Ministers also failed to make the public aware of serious alternatives to the option of a new airport at Cliffe in North Kent. Having considered two schemes for estuary airports at Thames Reach and Sheppey they failed to evaluate them to the same depth as Cliffe - even though the risk of bird strike meant development at Cliffe was impractical.

The council has favoured the building of a new 24-hour airport in the Thames Estuary because this would remove the need for night flights over London. The High Court challenge also exposes flaws in the white paper concerning expansion plans at Luton and Stansted.

At Luton the Government is recommending an extended runway even though this option was not included in the consultation exercise.At Stansted, BAA say a second runway is only commercially viable if it is cross-subsidised by Heathrow and Gatwick revenues. However the Civil
Aviation Authority ruled out this option during the consultation process. Even so the white paper recommends that a second Stansted runway should be built by 2011.

Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister said:

"This is a unique challenge that brings together local authorities and campaign groups from throughout the region. The different strands of the legal argument are complex and varied - but we all have one common ground. We believe the consultation was unfair because ordinary people concerned by airport expansion were not given the full facts.

"It was as if we all took part in the wrong consultation exercise. There are firm recommendations in this white paper which never saw the light of day as options in the consultation that preceded it. If we are successful the transport secretary will be forced to re-run the consultation process - this time including all the information that was withheld previously. Then at least people will be able to comment on all the options - and not just the ones the Government wants them to see."

HACAN chairman John Stewart added:

"People in south and west London are furious that they were not given the chance to comment on plans to end runway alternation at Heathrow. These plans emerged from nowhere in the white paper - yet runway alternation is a life-saver for many of those whose health suffers because of aircraft noise."

March 8, 2004