Legal Battle Over ‘Fixed’ Airport Data

Evidence indicates collusion between Government and BAA

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Campaigning group HACAN ClearSkies claim to have "very, very strong grounds" for a legal action after The Sunday Times uncovered evidence that the government and BAA ‘bent the facts to fit the case’ in their efforts to push through approval for Heathrow’s third runway.

Initial research commissioned by the government revealed that expansion of the airport would breach noise and pollution targets and therefore should not go ahead.

However, BAA were supposedly not put off by this and sent an email to DfT’s David Gray suggesting that the government discard the damaging findings and recalculate the environmental impact on residents using new figures largely provided by BAA.

The Sunday Times reports that documents seen by their reporters show that BAA senior executives were given “unrivalled access to Whitehall so they could select alternate input data for the environmental predictions until they got the right results.”

These results showed that “a new airport the size of Gatwick could be bolted on to Heathrow without any adverse environmental impact.”

“These documents show it was quite clearly a fix,” Justine Greening, MP for Putney told the newspaper. “BAA’s involvement was completely inappropriate and should now be properly investigated.”

BAA has denied collusion claiming the DfT was responsible for the research although BAA had provided some of the original data. The DfT – which is expected to announce its decision on the third runway in the summer – said that BAA had been required to play a significant role in the consultation papers because it had valuable data that were needed.

However, John Stewart, chairman of Hacan ClearSkies, the lobby group opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, said, “The government is being told by its own chief environmental advisers that the figures and assumptions on which the consultation has been based are flawed, misleading and contain huge holes.”

These allegations prompted Mary Macleod, the local Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, to query their accuracy with Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly MP and called for all Heathrow expansion plans to stop whilst the allegations are being investigated.

Mary said, “Local residents are extremely concerned about the government’s Heathrow expansion plans. I have asked Ann Keen, as the current Member of Parliament, to raise a question in the House of Commons to the Secretary of State for Transport on this allegation, as I want to find out if this consultation process has just been a complete sham. People are fed up with being ignored and fed up with the Government doing exactly what they want with no concern for what local people think.”

March 13, 2008