14th November 2008

SSE High Court challenge over Stansted decision

Climate change impacts cannot be ignored says Campaign Group

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has today lodged an Appeal with the High Court challenging last month’s decision by the Government to sanction an additional 10 million passengers a year on Stansted’s existing runway.

The campaign group’s action comes within days of it being confirmed that a Public Inquiry to consider BAA’s plans for a second runway at Stansted is to start in April 2009 and would derail these plans if the legal challenge succeeds. [see Note 1]

SSE’s legal action will challenge three aspects of the Government’s decision to approve the extra 10 million passengers a year and the related extra flights:

  1. That the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions, however substantial, can be disregarded in the decision to approve the extra flights;
  2. That the economic impact on the UK trade deficit, however adverse, can be disregarded;
  3. That the adverse noise impacts upon local residents and people living further afield cannot amount to a reason for refusal because to do so would frustrate Government policy.

Having taken Counsel’s advice [see Note 2] SSE considers the Government’s reasoning on the above three points to be wrong in law and in breach of clear assurances previously provided. If allowed to go unchallenged the Government’s decision could have national repercussions as well as impacts on the case against a second runway at Stansted. For this reason, major national environmental groups [Note 3] are supporting SSE’s decision to mount this High Court challenge and in some cases have even promised some financial support.

Peter Sanders, Chairman of SSE, said: “We have no choice but to mount a legal challenge to this decision. When it reaches the stage where the Government is prepared to disregard the climate change impacts, the noise impacts and even the interests of the UK economy in order to satisfy its obsession for airport expansion, then it is time to ask the High Court to intervene. The issues at stake here go far wider than Stansted.”

Mr Sanders concluded: “This will be a major strain on our financial resources especially since we also face the prospect of having to contest plans for a second Stansted runway at a major Public Inquiry next year. We are therefore appealing to the public for their support.”

Donations and pledges to SSE for the High Court Appeal Fighting Fund should be sent to SSE at PO Box 311, Takeley, Bishop’s Stortford, Herts CM22 6PY or via the Second Runway Public Inquiry Appeal Fund page.

+ + + A photocall with interview opportunities will be held at 3pm today (Friday) outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL when Carol Barbone and Brian Ross of Stop Stansted Expansion will be joined by Rosa Curling from Leigh Day & Co, solicitors and members of some of the environmental groups mentioned below. + + +


(1) Approval for an extra 10 million passengers a year is the equivalent to superimposing the annual passenger throughput of Birmingham Airport (the UK’s 6th largest) or Luton Airport (the UK’s 5th largest) on top of the existing operation at Stansted. However, even this is totally overshadowed by the plans for a second runway. If approved, Stansted would be allowed to become bigger than today’s Heathrow.

(2) SSE is advised in this matter by barristers Mr Paul Stinchcombe and Ms Sarah Hannett of 4-5 Grays Inn Square, London and solicitors Leigh Day & Co, St John’s Lane, London.

(3) Environmental Groups who support SSE in this matter include the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Aviation Environment Federation, HACAN Clear Skies [Heathrow], RestoreUK, Plane Stupid, Ramblers Association, We Can, and the World Development Movement.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits