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AIRPORT COUNCILS WIN HIGH COURT FIGHT AGAINST NIGHT FLIGHTS

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A group of local authorities battling to thwart Transport Department plans for a new quota system governing flights...
A group of local authorities battling to thwart Transport Department plans for a new quota system governing flights in and out of London's three main airports won a historic victory in London's High Court.

Mr Justice Laws declared the new quota system unlawful and the system, which was due to come into effect on October 24, now cannot do so subject to the Departments's right of appeal.

The judge said the quota system was outside the powers conferred on the Secretary of State for Transport under section 78 (3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. The system was based on investigations into 'noise energy' levels, rather than an assessment of maximum numbers of flights in and of the airports as required by the Act, Mr Justice Laws ruled.

The judge said that was the sole point on which Richmond, Windsor andMaidenhead, Tandridge, Hillingdon and Slough councils had won their case.

He rejected arguments that the Secretary of State's decision to adopt the new policy on July 6 this year was 'perverse'. He added that a full consultation exercise had been carried out before the decision and the Councils had in no way been denied 'Natural Justice'.

The Secretary of State had clearly considered issues of 'sleep prevention' as well as of 'sleep arousal' and the councils' argument that the new system threatened public health were 'mis-conceived'. The judge said it was not his role to look into the merits of the Secretary of State's decision, only its legality.

But the Councils had attempted to 'dress up' issues relating to the merits of the decision as legal issues and 'the clothes did not fit', added the judge. The Councils, who claim the new quota system threatened to more than double the number of flights in and out of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, were granted Judicial Review of the Secretary of State's decision.

But, having lost on all but one of their arguments, the councils were awarded only 25% of their legal costs.

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