Bid to halt airport expansion fails

Halstead Gazette: The 25m project at Lydd Airport includes a runway extension of almost 300m  The 25m project at Lydd Airport includes a runway extension of almost 300m

Campaigners have lost a legal challenge to a Government decision to allow a multi-million pound airport expansion in Kent.

The £25m project at Lydd Airport includes a runway extension of almost 300m (328yds) and a new terminal building which objectors say could harm "one of the most important wildlife sites in the world" at Dungeness.

A joint legal challenge was launched by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Lydd Airport Action (LAAG) Group.

They argued that land around the airport was of "exceptional" importance to birds, and the expansion plans would damage unique natural habitats on Romney Marsh and "urbanise" an important rural area.

LAAG also warned the development would raise the "probability" of an aircraft accident involving the Dungeness nuclear power station complex to unacceptably high levels.

Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, dismissed the challenge saying that "none of the grounds of challenge succeed".

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

The judge said the airport - full title London Ashford Airport at Lydd - was described by a planning inspector as being "in a sensitive location".

It was "the only airport in the UK within 5km of a nuclear power station".

The judge ruled Government ministers were legally entitled to accept the recommendations of a planning inspector who said the expansion project should be allowed after presiding over a 42-day public inquiry.

The Communities Secretary and Transport Secretary granted planning permission in April 2013 for a runway extension which will allow the number of airport passengers to rise from 200,000 to 500,000 a year.

The judge said the inspector "recognised of course the potentially catastrophic consequences of a plane crashing into the nuclear power station but accepted that a rational assessment of the chances of that happening was required and of the extent to which the grant of permission would increase that risk".

The judge ruled there was "no error of law in his acceptance of the safety evidence" that the level of risk was acceptable.

A Government spokesman said: "We welcome that the High Court has upheld our planning decision which took into account all the relevant issues and representations.

"The proposed airport improvements were always supported by the local district council, the county council and the local MP."

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