Court okays Munich airport runway expansion plans

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Munich airport has notched a victory in the legal battle over its planned third runway, but it is not yet clear when construction can begin.

The German state of Bavaria’s high administrative court has rejected all lawsuits against the runway’s planning process, which means that the airport operator has the judicial go-ahead to start building the runway. However, such a move would require unanimous approval by the operator’s three shareholders – Bavaria, the Federal Republic of Germany and the City of Munich – and the latter has been opposed to the expansion project since a referendum in mid-2012.

Some 16 lawsuits had in July 2011 been filed by a range of claimants including citizens and local authorities that will be affected by the expansion as well as a non-governmental organisation for environmental protection. They argued that the regional government’s planning process for the runway was flawed.

On 19 February, the administrative court ruled that the regional government had acted within the law. Not only have the 16 lawsuits been rejected, but the court also ruled that the claimants could not appeal against the verdict.

However, the claimants can appeal against the decision not to grant them the right of appeal, the court says.

The airport operator expects the claimants to go ahead with an appeal against that decision before a federal administrative court.

With the court ruling, Munich airport has been legally cleared to start building the proposed 4,000m (13,100ft) runway northeast of the current two parallel runways as planned. But whether the City of Munich will lend its agreement remains unclear.

The 2012 referendum against the runway was valid for only a year, says the airport operator. However, the city is in the midst of an mayoral election campaign and Suddeutsche Zeitung reports that all major party candidates have stated their support for the controversial referendum.

Around 54% of Munich's voters were against the third runway. Turnout was just under 33%.

Munich airport says the court ruling enables it to start building the runway within the next 15 years.