Court sets limits to Heathrow expansion

Judge rules out possibility of full length third runway

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The Government's plans for expansion at Heathrow have been thrown into disarray after a judge ruled against a full length third runway.

Mr Justice Sullivan said that the Government should stick to the short (2,000m) runway indicated in the consultation that preceded its airports white paper.

Campaigners had challenged the white paper in the High Court on the grounds that it had left the door open to a much longer runway than people had been led to expect.

Sullivan reassured the public that the Government's proposal to end runway alternation - thus allowing extra capacity of around 16m passengers a year – and the sixth terminal that would also be necessary - should be the subject of full public consultation.

During the High Court action lawyers for the campaigners had argued that allowing both existing runways to be used at the same time and making full use of a new third runway would increase the numbers of passengers at Heathrow by 35m a year. This was equivalent to building a new airport the size of Gatwick in the South East.

The judge also ruled that the decision to select a specific alignment for a new runway at Stansted was unlawful and that a runway extension at Luton should not have been included in the White Paper because it had not been consulted upon.

Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister said: "The Government's whole strategy for an era of unprecedented expansion in airport capacity in the South East is in tatters. The white paper survives but its credibility is severely undermined. Major planks of the strategy at Luton and Stansted have been found unlawful while plans for uncontrolled expansion at Heathrow have been stopped in their tracks."

He added that the limits put on Heathrow expansion would require Ministers to look again at airport expansion in the South East.

The judicial review was brought by Wandsworth and Hillingdon councils, Stop Stansted Expansion, Heathrow Association for Control of Aircraft Noise and the Luton and District Association for Control of Aircraft Noise.

February 18, 2005