The government's plans to expand Heathrow Airport were dealt another blow today following a High Court decision that a hearing should be held to consider the case against the controversial decision to build a third runway.
The Judge ruled that the case needed to be heard in an open court given the significant public interest element and the need for clarification over the Transport Secretary's statement to Parliament in January in which he gave the green light to the third runway.
Leading green groups, along with local councils and residents' groups allege that the statement by the then Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, was fundamentally different to the proposals on which the government originally consulted. Greenpeace, WWF-UK, RSPB and CPRE also argue that the decision is incompatible with the government's climate change policy.
The decision follows yesterday's comments by the new Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, that high speed rail will replace millions of short-haul flights. If Adonis's vision becomes a reality, and the 100,000 short-haul flights that take-off and land at Heathrow each year are transferred to the rail network, the case for a third runway will be further undermined.
Greenpeace Executive Director, John Sauven said:
"Brown was so busy trying to please his friends at BAA that he forgot to check his sums on Heathrow. If he had, he would have found that putting 220,000 more planes in the sky is completely at odds with the urgent need to slash emissions and stop runaway climate change."
"Now, Brown's incoherent decision to expand Heathrow will be scrutinized further by the High Court and he could be forced to ditch this disastrous policy."
"It's blindingly obvious that instead of spending £13 billion on a strip of tarmac that nobody wants or needs, we should be investing in greener forms of transport such as more efficient rail services."
David Norman, Director of Campaigns at WWF-UK said:
"We are delighted that we will now have the opportunity to legally challenge the government's flawed thinking in giving the third runway the go ahead. Allowing expansion at Heathrow runs completely counter to the government's efforts to position itself as a leader in the fight against climate change. It will also make it nigh on impossible for the UK to meet its carbon budget without seriously restricting other sections of the economy."
RSPB's Director of Conservation, Dr Mark Avery said:
"To build capacity for more flights when we need to cut carbon emissions drastically makes no sense.
"We can already see the first harmful impacts of climate change on UK wildlife, including catastrophic population declines in seabirds in parts of the North Sea.
"The decision to press ahead with a third runway against such a backdrop is deeply flawed and we do not believe it will stand up to the scrutiny of the court."
Neil Sinden, Policy and Campaigns Director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said:
"The High Court has recognised that our legal case has merits. This is an important step in overturning the government's democratically dubious decision to bulldoze a third runway through a village and the surrounding countryside. It is also the first nail in the coffin for the 2003 Air Transport White Paper on which the government's outdated expansion plans are based."