June 29, 2017 / 10:55 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Austria's top court overturns ban on Vienna Airport expansion

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VIENNA, June 29 (Reuters) - A ban on construction of Vienna Airport's third runway was annulled by Austria's top court on Thursday.

The Constitutional Court said a ruling by the lower administrative court, which blocked the expansion project for environmental reasons in February, was a "misguided decision".

It "involved climate protection and land consumption in an unconstitutional way in its weighing of interests," said Constitutional Court President Gerhart Holzinger.

Airport expansion is a hot topic in Europe, pitting local residents and environmentalists against airlines, airports and businesses. Law experts see the Austrian case as trend-setting for other major infrastructure projects.

Holzinger ordered the administrative court, which said a third runway would run counter to Austria's pledge to the Paris climate agreement and that the creation of 30,000 new jobs could not justify the extra pollution, to decide again on the issue.

Vienna Airport shares gained as much as 1.4 percent after the decision, outperforming the European sector index, which was 0.6 percent lower at 1027 GMT.

Vienna Airport, which had said the ban ignored its fundamental rights, welcomed the decision.

"An infrastructure project that is so important for the future again has a chance of realisation," said Guenther Ofner, a member of Vienna Airport's management board.

The airport is the country's biggest, serving as a secondary hub in the Lufthansa-Star Alliance network and focussing on Eastern Europe and on intercontinental destinations in Asia.

Austria's Transport Minister Joerg Leichtfried, also welcoming the ruling, said he now hoped for a "swift decision".

Plans for a third runway at the Vienna airport were first submitted for review in March 2007. Initially, the airport planned to open it in 2021; now it hopes for 2028. (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter)

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