Council Takes Government To Court In Battle Over Runway 3

Experts believe Geoff Hoon may have made legal errors with expansion decision

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council is taking the Government to court in an attempt to stop its controversial plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The Council will be joined in its action by an impressive alliance of organisations in an audacious legal challenge that could thwart the Government’s expansion plans.

Other councils supporting the challenge include Hounslow, Hillingdon, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond upon Thames, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead. All are members of the 2M Group of local authorities opposed to Heathrow expansion.

The case is also backed by Transport for London, Greenpeace, RSPB, WWF, CPRE, HACAN, the Sipson residents' group NOTRAG where 700 families face losing their homes, and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

According to legal experts, the Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, may have made a number of errors in law when he took the decision to push ahead with expansion.

The Council and its allies will argue that the Government failed to conduct a lawful consultation process and arrived at a decision on a potentially half-capacity third runway, which was different to the fully operational runway in the consultation.

They will claim that the decision was irrational in a number of areas including the economic case, noise, air quality and public transport impacts and the approach to climate change issues, and that the Transport Secretary failed to provide adequate reasons for his decision.

If permission is granted it is likely that a hearing would not take place until the early part of 2010.

Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh said, “This is the most important quality of life issue facing our residents. The proposed Heathrow expansion is the equivalent to building a new airport the size of Gatwick in the most densely populated part of the country.

“The arguments for the third runway are based on flimsy economic arguments that do not stand much scrutiny. This is why we are supporting the Judicial Review. If the third runway is built it will introduce another flight path over Hammersmith & Fulham, disturbing even more residents with flights from early morning until late at night.”

The Government’s Heathrow consultation took place in late 2007/early 2008 and was widely criticised by a number of bodies including the Plain English Campaign, which slammed it for being ‘undemocratic’ and ‘not fit for purpose’.

The forthcoming legal challenge is the latest phase in the campaign to Say NO to Heathrow expansion that has attracted support from a broad alliance of campaign groups, charities, local authorities, politicians and celebrities.

Many opponents to expansion are increasingly confident that the campaign to stop the third runway will be successful.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, the chances of a third runway being built at Heathrow Airport were dealt a serious blow after a government document warned that BAA cannot lodge a planning application for the project before the next general election.

April 12, 2009