Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Legal fight against airport plans

The Stop Stansted Expansion group wants the decision quashed for environmental reasons

Plans for an expansion of Stansted Airport in Essex which were given the go-ahead by the government are facing a High Court challenge.

Airport owner BAA wants to increase passenger numbers from 25 million to 35 million a year and flights leaving the airport from 241,000 to 264,000 a year.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) lawyers said proper consideration was not given to "adverse effects".

The hearing in London is expected to last three days.

The protest group has accused ministers of disregarding the climate change and noise impact of the expansion.

SSE is saying nothing new today and is simply re-running its losing case at the public inquiry
Nick Barton, BAA

Paul Stinchcombe, for SSE, told the judge, Sir Thayne Forbes, there had been a failure to take proper account of the adverse effects on UK trade and the additional noise that would be suffered.

He said these issues were disregarded, despite the government having acknowledged it was right to consider them when deciding whether to approve the expansion project.

He said: "It would appear this is largely attributable to a simple error of law made by the secretaries of state.

"They decided that matters were immaterial (to the decision-making process) when they were material."

The government is defending the expansion project, saying SSE's arguments were "plainly incorrect". BAA and Stansted Airport Ltd are listed as "interested parties" in the action.

Nick Barton, commercial and development director BAA Stansted, said: "Today's challenge by SSE is against government policy, not the evidence we (BAA) gave to the public inquiry.

"SSE is saying nothing new today and is simply re-running its losing case at the public inquiry.

"As an interested party, we will play an active role in the hearing but it is ultimately for the government to defend its decisions and policies - and we are confident the government can defend itself very robustly."

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