ISSUE: Third Runway                   

No cutting corners on third runway plans

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Newspaper reports at the weekend indicating that ministers are backing plans for a third runway at Heathrow have prompted fears that the proposals could be rushed through without proper consultation.

Ministers have already said they want to short-cut the planning process for major infrastructure projects. These would in future be decided by Parliament rather than through the public inquiry route.

A House of Commons select committee has already criticised the proposals which were contained in a planning consultation paper last December.

Wandsworth Council's cabinet member for transport Kathy Tracey said, "The extra runway would bring yet more noise to people in Battersea, Wandsworth and Putney. It would also impact directly on homes just north of the river in Kensington and Chelsea."

She warned ministers not to put industry pressure before environmental concerns:

"Even with Stephen Byers gone this transport department cannot stop spinning. The pattern of careful briefings is all too familiar. We are being told ministers are looking at four options for expansion in the south east - yet surprisingly there is no place on the short list for the Marinair proposals for a 24 hours and seven days a week airport in the Thames estuary to the east of London.

"This is a bold plan which has been around for ten years. The runways would be built on a manmade island linked by high speed trains to a new terminal at East Tilbury. This would avoid the need for overflying central London.

She added that she felt Ministers should explain publicly why they appear to have dismissed this option when the environmental arguments against further expansion at Heathrow are so overwhelming saying, "Instead of caving in to industry pressure for concentrating yet more activity at Heathrow ministers should order a rigorous cost-benefit study that would for the first time properly weigh the case for and against building a new airport.".

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last October that by putting economic arguments ahead of environmental and quality of life concerns the UK Government had violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court also found that the Government had not properly investigated the effects of night flights on sleep prevention, nor whether they were essential in the economic interests of the country.

The UK Government's appeal will be heard on October 9.

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