Activists lose legal bid to stop expansion

ANTI-EXPANSION campaigners lost their High Court battle yesterday to block the decision to expand Stansted airport.

The Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) group was opposing proposals for an additional 10 million passengers a year to use the single existing runway at the Essex airport.

The SSE accused the government of unlawfully “steamrollering these plans every step of the way.”

But High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes dismissed the legal challenge and said that criticisms of the way it had been handled were “unjustified and without substance.”

Following the judge’s ruling that the government’s decision to approve permission was legal, the SSE campaign director Carol Barbone said: “This High Court action was never simply about winning or losing.

“Our primary concern was to ensure that our main battle against a second Stansted runway was not prejudiced by the wording of the original decision.

“However, today’s ruling seems to make matters even less clear than they were before. That is why we are seeking leave to appeal.”

The judge refused permission to appeal, but SSE lawyers can still ask the Court of Appeal itself to hear their case.

The group was ordered to pay the government’s legal costs from the High Court hearing up to an agreed limit of £20,000.

The GMB union’s Stansted branch said that it supported the expansion of the airport because it would increase job opportunities and career prospects.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We welcome the court’s dismissal of this appeal on all grounds and its recognition that we acted properly. Runway capacity in the south-east is scarce, so we believe it is right best use is made of the existing runway at Stansted.”

Stansted commercial and development director Nick Barton added: “We are very pleased with the decision – it’s the right decision and one we fully expected.

“The social and economic case for G1 (expansion) remains strong and our plans were endorsed by a full and independent public inquiry and a recommendation for approval by the planning inspector.

“As a result, this is a very good day for the millions of people who need and want to fly to visit their friends and family, go on well-earned holidays or travel on business.”

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