972: Airport challenges and LURB Planning Act amendments
This week’s entry rounds up challenges to airport expansions and reports on government amendments to the Levelling-up and Infrastructure Bill on infrastructure planning.
A challenge to Bristol Airport expansion was in the High Court (sitting in Bristol) this week. The challenge was brought by ‘Bristol Airport Action Network’ (which I’m guessing is pronounced ‘ban’ rather than ‘bahn’).
There were six grounds of challenge, one on two local plan policies, four on carbon emissions (in the ‘Making Best Use’ policy document, the National Planning Policy Framework, the local carbon budget and lack of assessment of non-CO2 emissions) and one on habitats (compensation was actually mitigation). The local carbon budgets referred to are those developed by the Tyndall Centre.
Dale Vince, environmental campaigner and founder of Ecotricity, tweeted this about the challenge:
‘It’s stupid to think we can expand airports and flying while fighting the climate emergency, and we think and hope the judge agrees – it’s against the law.’
Airport expansion cannot be against the law per se, but that doesn’t mean that any particular permission could not be successfully challenged for legal flaws.
The second grant of the Manston Airport DCO is also being challenged by the same challenger as before, a resident of Ramsgate. It is at the stage of being considered by a judge on the papers.
A plan to lengthen Southampton Airport’s runway can go ahead after a challenge in the High Court earlier this year was unsuccessful and the Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal a couple of months later.
Last year, the local authority decided not to appeal an unsuccessful challenge to Stansted Airport’s expansion plans so they too can go ahead.
Meanwhile, three airport DCO applications are in the offing, for Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow. They have all done at least one round of statutory consultation.
As previously mentioned, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is back on track and is awaiting a date for its report stage. What has not been mentioned here is that two clauses were added during committee stage, (currently numbered 111 and 112), the first of which is to allow the Secretary of State to set a shorter deadline for examination, this immediately follows an existing subsection that allows the Secretary of State to set a longer deadline for examination. Currently the obligation to tell Parliament and interested parties of the longer deadline will not apply to a shorter deadline.
The second change is to Schedule six which deals with changes to made Development Consent Orders. It allows regulations to be made about the decision-making process for non-material changes.
Both of these changes do not reveal what is behind them if you just read them as drafted. The first one is about applications getting a shorter examination if they achieve certain higher standards, but the amendment does not link the shorter timescale to this measure. The second is about introducing timescales for non-material changes, but again does not mention that as being what the regulations would do. These amendments implement part of what was said in the ‘further information’ that accompanied the bill when it was introduced (near the bottom).
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