High Court is expected to hear the case within the next three or four months
The courts have given the go-ahead for organisations challenging the Aviation White Paper to mount a full Judicial Review in the High Court (1). The Government is being challenged by airport campaign groups representing communities around Stansted, Luton and Heathrow and by the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Hillingdon.
The High Court is expected to hear the case within the next three or four months. If the court finds in favour of the campaigners, the Government could be forced to re-run the consultation leading up to the White Paper and probably re-write the White Paper.
A Judicial Review can only challenge specific shortcomings in the decision-making process. It cannot challenge the contents of the White Paper.
The High Court challenge will highlight four key flaws:
the consultation document did not make clear that the ending of runway alternation at Heathrow could be a short-term alternative to a third runway (2);
the consultation document failed to give people the opportunity of commenting on the proposal, favoured in the White Paper, of going for an extended runway at Luton (3);
the White Paper ignores the absence of a commercial justification for a second Stansted runway, contrary to the Government’s own ground-rules for the consultation (4).
the Government failed to provide the public with information about alternative proposals for new airports at Thames Reach and on the Isle of Sheppey and failed to give proper consideration to those options (5);
John Stewart, Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, said, “People in 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 in West London.”
Stewart added, “This decision by the judges to give us the go-ahead to take our challenge to the High Court is a major blow to the Government. It did not get the green light it wanted for its aggressive plans for airport expansion.”
Notes for Editors
The court made its announcement on Friday 11th June.
Runway alternation means that people living in West London within about 8 miles of Heathrow only get planes landing over the head for half the day. Planes switch runways at 3pm. The applicants are arguing that there was no indication in the consultation that runway alternation was in any way an alternative to a 3rd runway. Yet the White Paper, which put the proposal for a 3rd runway on the back-burner, contained the proposal that runway alternation could be ended at Heathrow.
The consultation document contained two options for expansion of Luton Airport: the construction of a replacement southern runway; and a new runway on a different alignment. It did not include details of plans to extend the current runway, the proposal that emerged in the White Paper. Therefore, the applicants argue, people did not have the opportunity to comment on the proposal that emerged.
The consultation documents made it clear that commercial viability was a “hurdle which must be passed for new and existing airport sites”. BAA advised the Government that a second Stansted runway would only be commercially viable if it could be cross-subsidised by Heathrow and Gatwick revenues but the regulator (the CAA) ruled against the option of cross-subsidisation by BAA during the consultation process. Despite this clear impasse, the Government has stated in the White Paper that a second Stansted runway should be built by 2011 or 2012.
The applicants argue that the Government had information about the viability of new airports at Thames Reach and the Isle of Sheppey that it did not set out in its consultation document. Therefore, the applicants argue, people were not in a position to make a proper assessment of these options when responding to the consultation. The process was at fault. The fact that the applicants have included this point in their challenge does not mean they favour building an airport at Thames Reach or Sheppey.
For further information contact:
John Stewart, Chair HACAN ClearSkies — Tel: 0207 737 6641 or 07957 385650
Richard Buxton, the solicitor taking this case forward — Tel: 01223 328933