The campaign to halt the expansion of Lydd Airport has suffered a major setback. In a reserved judgment in the High Court of Justice on May 16 , Mr Justice Ousley dismissed the application brought by the Lydd Anti-Airport Group. At the earlier hearing in January the group, known locally as LAAG, had argued against the Government’s decision to allow expansion of Lydd and said that the Office for Nuclear Regulation had greatly under-estimated the probability of a major accident involving the Dungeness power station, potentially leading to a serious radiological release.
“The nuclear regulator had used an accident probability methodology that was essentially flawed,” Louise Barton of LAAG said yesterday. “The risk of an aircraft accident after the introduction of large passenger jets is unacceptable – no other regional airport in Europe will be located as close to a nuclear power complex.” The airport owners plan to extend the runway by 440 metres and build a new terminal which will be capable of handling 500,000 passengers a year. It is thought passenger numbers could rise to as many as 2 million a year. This and its associated infrastructure will have substantial impact upon the whole area of Romney Marsh and its unique natural habitats. Many Rye residents had supported the campaign fearing the noise and pollution of over-flying aircraft.
Barton, who has led the LAAG campaign for 10 years, added: “A Section 288 Appeal focuses heavily on process, not the merits of the facts. This development will lead to the introduction of large aircraft, such as the Boeing 737, taking off and landing within 60 seconds flight time of the Dungeness nuclear power complex . . . Lydd Airport’s expansion is not in the public interest.”
Barton is hoping that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will continue the fight. Sam Dawes, conservation officer for RSPB South East, said: “This is a complicated case and we’re going to have a review before we make a decision.”
It is ironic that loss-making Manston Airport, near Ramsgate, finally closed on the same day of the judgment, despite a last minute offer from US investors to purchase the site. The offer had been rejected by Ann Gloag, the owner of the site and founder of Stagecoach.