Lydd Airport Appeal Lodged

Campaigners against plans to expand Lydd Airport on Romney Marsh have lodged a legal challenge to the Government's decision to allow the development.

Managers at the airport were last month given permission to extend its runway and build a new terminal capable of handling up to 500,000 passengers a year.

But opponents are concerned about the airport's proximity to the Dungeness nuclear power station, an RSPB nature reserve and a military range.

The airport, also known as London Ashford Airport, is said to be under one of the largest migratory bird routes in the South of England, with fears its growth could lead to more bird strikes.  

The Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) has lodged an appeal at the High Court in a bid to quash last month's decision by the Government.

The application is being brought under Section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the 3,000-member LAAG is being represented by Matthew Horton, QC.

Chris Corrigan, the RSPB's south east regional director, said: "Dungeness is one of the most important wildlife sites in the world.

"It is protected at global, European and UK levels. It is home to species found hardly anywhere else in the UK. It is also a crossroads for migrating birds stopping off on their epic global journeys.''

Opponents had argued their case at a public inquiry but the inspector found in favour of the airport's plans, which were later endorsed by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Mr Corrigan said: "The stakes are too high to risk the future of one of our best and most important places for nature without testing the basis for this decision which we consider to be flawed.''

Lydd Airport's plans, costing £25 million, include a 964ft (294m) runway extension, a 492ft (150m) starter extension, plus a new terminal building.

Its owners say they have already spent £35 million over the past 10 years modernising the airport, which has operated on the Dungeness Peninusula since 1954.

Greeting last month's approval, the airport's executive manager Hani Mutlaq said it was a victory for common sense and for the people of Romney Marsh''.

The plans will create jobs, boost tourism and revive a long-standing economic blackspot as well as provide sorely-needed additional airport capacity in the south east, he said.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The planning decision from April took into account all the relevant issues and representations.

"That decision has been supported by the local district council, the county council and the local MP. We will respond in due course to the legal submission.''

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East of England, said: "We know that expansion at Lydd to cater for 500,000 passengers a year would have a serious impact on both the local area and the wider environment.

"It would increase pollution for local residents and threaten the world-renowned nature reserve at Dungeness. It would also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and set a dangerous precedent for airport expansion across the region.

"I'll be working with campaigners to stand against the expansion of Lydd Airport and protect the area from an unnecessary and unwanted development.''