Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Byers May Face Legal Challenge over T5 Go-Ahead

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Byers May Face Legal Challenge over T5 Go-Ahead

Article excerpt


OPPONENTS of a fifth terminal at Heathrow will today examine the possibility of legal challenges against the Government's approval of the [pound]2.25 billion project.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers is accused of failing to address their key demands for guarantees on no third runway at Heathrow and an early end to all night flights.

It leaves open the possibility that environmental groups, anti-noise campaigners or affected local authorities will apply for a High Court judicial review over the next six weeks. Much will depend on whether the major concession offered by Mr Byers - a cap on the total number of flights in and out of Heathrow - can be shown to be legally enforceable.

A protest rally against the ruling is going ahead in central London on Saturday, organised by the Heathrow Association for Control of Aircraft Noise. The disparate coalition of opponents may know by then if they will seek action over a decision welcomed by business groups as a major boost to London's economy and the aviation industry.

Critics and supporters say a number of questions remain unanswered about how the terminal can operate without rising noise and pollution levels and yet more expansion at the airport.

Number of flights Mr Byers imposed an annual number of flights of 480,000 - up from the current level of 460,000 - but there are big question marks over how this ceiling will be enforced.

Friends of the Earth warns there is no evidence of any legal obligations to stop airport operator BAA from exceeding the limit.

The Heathrow Association for Control of Aircraft Noise was planning to use a [pound]100,000 war chest to fund a legal challenge on the basis of flight levels - but now says it will wait and see if the new limit is enforceable.

Chairman John Stewart said: "It is quite a significant increase from the current level but, if it can be enforced, it would effectively prevent further expansion at Heathrow."

Critics fear there is nothing to prevent the new limits on flight numbers being broken as previous limits have been exceeded. Edward Lister, leader of Tory-run Wandsworth council, said ministers' promises on limits "will not be believed".

He points to the fact that BAA told the T5 inquiry in 1995 that flight numbers at Heathrow would rise to 473,000 a year by 2013. In fact this level has almost been reached already with total numbers last year running at 466,000 flights.

Pilots' union Balpa was also unhappy because it had hoped to see a new rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick to improve connections between Europe's busiest dualrunway airport and the world's busiest single runway airport.

Third runway Mr Byers opted out of a decision on a third runway at Heathrow despite pressure to make a declaration of intent from opponents and BAA. …

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