A German federal court has cleared the way for the construction of a third runway at Munich airport after dismissing the latest in a series of challenges from environmental activists.Â
The airport, the seventh busiest in Europe, has been arguing for an expansion for the past 10 years.
The Leipzig Federal Administrative Court rejected the contention of Bund Naturschutz Bayern, an environmental group, that the expansion would violate European environmental constraints and noise control ordinances.
The court has now rejected all motions and appeals relating to the runway.
"Today’s decision means that our construction permit can no longer be contested, which gives us legal certainty for this vital expansion project," said the airport’s chief executive, Michael Kerkloh, in a statement.
"Ten years after the launch of the project, the highest German administrative court has now issued a final ruling, stating that our plans meet all relevant requirements in terms of project planning and under the law."
The decision on when to go ahead with construction depends on the airport’s three shareholders, which are the state of Bavaria, the city of Munich and the federal government.Â
At present, the three levels have not produced a co-ordinated plan, however Kerkloh said he was confident they would agree to expand the airport to keep pace with demand and to "secure the long-term future of our hub as a key competitive factor for the entire state of Bavaria, both in terms of business and employment".
Lufthansa, the main German carrier, is the airport’s main ally in lobbying the government to back the project. Munich is its second largest hub after Frankfurt, and it said the Munich expansion would boost long-term profit growth.Â
Munich Airport plans to build a satellite facility in April 2016, which will be operated jointly by FMG, the operating company, and Lufthansa.Â
Munich handled 40 million passengers in 2014, a million more than in 2013, most of them international.
Despite the clearing of legal hurdles, a third runway has been unpopular in the city – a referendum in Munich in 2012 rejected the idea.
Image: Munich’s main terminal at dusk (Source: Munich Airport)