Government support for plans by Australian practice Woods Bagot for a new passenger airport in South Yorkshire have sparked a storm of protest from environmental campaigners.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has given the go-ahead for a £20-£50 million redevelopment of RAF Finningley near Doncaster, after the plans were examined at public inquiry. The approval will allow the creation of the first major airport in the region, serving 2.3 million passengers a year and rivalling Manchester Airport.
However, AirportWatch, a coalition of anti-airport campaigners spearheaded by Friends of the Earth, has pledged to challenge the plans through the High Court. Its chair John Stewart said it was 'odds-on' that the fight would continue.
'We are forming a national legal group to explore legal options, ' he said. 'Possibilities include whether the government consultation is so biased in favour of expansion, having overlooked key environmental and economic concerns, as to be challengeable in the courts.'
Woods Bagot's London office, in association with local consultant Leeds Roach Walker, was commissioned last year to produce a masterplan for the airport, which includes a concept design for a two-storey passenger terminal and supporting infrastructure.
Mark Kelly, Woods Bagot's managing partner for Europe, dismissed the potential legal threat:
'They'll try anything won't they, Friends of the Earth? I understand their view but at the end of the day there are bigger political arguments about growth and jobs on this side of the country.'