Germany's highest administrative court has given the go-ahead for the development of a new international airport just outside of Berlin. Opponents had argued the planned airport would cause environmental problems.
Schönefeld Airport will now be turned into Berlin Brandenburg International
The Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BBI), in the planning for almost 15 years, has had its wings clipped repeatedly. First conceived in the heady days after reunification, the airport has run into protests every step of the way from drawing board to construction crane.
Work had actually already begun on the site southeast of Berlin, but the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ordered workers to put down their hammers last April until it heard complaints from almost 4,000 residents who opposed the two-billion-euro ($2.4 billion) project.
Plans for the new air hub
But that same court today handed down a final ruling that allows construction to resume on the airport that proponents say could create up to 40,000 jobs in the economically struggling region and is essential if Berlin wants to remain in the top tier of European cities. BBI is scheduled to be opened by 2011.
No further appeal against the ruling is possible
New conditions set
At the same time, the court did say authorities would have to take additional measures to reduce noise and the overall environmental impact of the air hub on the surrounding region.
Opponents had argued that Berlin was well served by its three already existing airports, Tegel, Tempelhof and Schöneberg -- the latter once communist East Berlin's airport. But proponents, including politicians and business leaders, had argued that an international airport in Berlin was crucial for the further economic development of the region.
Tempelhof Airport in the center of Berlin is scheduled for phasing out when BBI opens
Currently, Berlin is not easily reachable with direct flights from destinations outside of Europe. Often, it is necessary to fly through larger airports such as Frankfurt, Paris or London, when traveling overseas.
Critics admitted even before the ruling that they did not think their chances of winning were great, but said if the court ruled that more environmental protection measures had to be put in place, it would be a partial victory.
The airport would eventually result in the phasing out of Tegel and Tempelhof airports, and would make the German capital the country's second biggest air hub after the western city of Frankfurt.