A High Court judge has rejected an appeal calling for a reduction in the number of night flights at Heathrow.
Justice Jeremy Sullivan delivered his verdict this afternoon after Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils took the Department for Transport (DfT) to a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier this week to seek a reduction in the number of aircraft allowed to arrive at Heathrow before 6am.
He ruled in favour of the Government, rejecting the review on all grounds.
Mr Sullivan said that while the Government had a policy of bearing down on night noise this did not necessarily mean that it had to make things better. He added that the policy was, therefore, "vacuous."
The councils argued half the planes in this early morning period had been placed in the wrong noise category and if they had been correctly classified they would not have been able to fly.
But the Government argued that because the night flights scheme pooled noise data over the three London airports it did not have to take specific action on what was a Heathrow problem.
Speaking after the verdict, Richmond Council leader Councillor Serge Lourie said he was disappointed with the ruling but pledged to fight on.
"Residents will be astonished to learn that, provided the numbers stack up at Gatwick and Stansted, Ministers do not have to do anything about night-noise at Heathrow," he said.
"It will be difficult now for residents to have any confidence that Ministers will make a proper assessment of the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion.
"All the Councils will now step up their call for a complete ban on night-flights. This is our ultimate goal - to end this continuing noise misery for our residents."
And he urged as many people as possible to join the Heathrow protest rally on Saturday, May 31, to show the strength of opposition to plans for a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.
On average there are around 16 early morning arrivals each day at Heathrow between 4.30am and 6am. Eight of these are ranked in a QC2 category when subsequent noise tests showed they should have been in a higher band (QC4) for which there is a scheduling ban at this time of night.