Government feared future airport expansion would have been jeopardised if development by Laing and Persimmon had been given go-ahead.

A building consortium lead by Persimmon and Laing is taking the government to court, amid claims that its White Paper on aviation will prevent it from building any new houses in a development near Gatwick airport.

The government wants to leave the greenfield site empty, in case further expansion at Heathrow is rejected as having too high an environmental impact. If this happened, it would turn to Gatwick as an alterative for expansion – a decision that might not be made for 15 years.

The consortium says that the government has failed to take account of the need for housebuilding in the South-east, where a target of 200,000 new homes has been set. It says it is crucial that the 120-hectare development, consisting of 2700 homes, goes ahead if the target is to be met.

Crawley Borough Council were on the cusp of granting planning permission for the site in 2001 when the government stepped in with its review. Three years later, the developers have been told ‘no go’.

While the developers cite an extra runway parallel to the existing one as an alternative to a new runway on the greenfield site, Crawley Borough Council, another member of the consortium, is opposed to any new runways at all, and is therefore not involved in the action.

A judicial review of the White Paper is due to be heard in December, with challenges also coming from protest groups such as Stop Stanstead Expansion.