Plans for third runway at Heathrow Airport blocked

27 February 2020, 10:16

Environmental groups hailed the landmark verdict as a victory
Environmental groups hailed the landmark verdict as a victory. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Heathrow expansion plans have been thrown into turmoil after climate change campaigners won a landmark Court of Appeal ruling.

Judges ruled on Thursday morning that then-Transport Secretary Chris Grayling did not fully account for environmental concerns such as air quality, noise pollution and traffic levels when he approved a Heathrow third runway in April 2018.

The case was brought by environmental groups, councils, local residents and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The ruling could mark the end of Heathrow expansion
The ruling could mark the end of Heathrow expansion. Picture: PA

The government will not appeal against the judgement, the court said, adding that a third runway could go ahead in future if it meets the UK's climate targets.

It throws plans for greater air capacity at Britain's busiest airport into tatters with Prime Minister Boris Johnson known to be a fierce opponent of the Heathrow project.

Giving their ruling on Thursday, Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave said the Government did not take enough account of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change when setting out its support for the proposals in its National Policy Statement (NPS).

In a summary of the ruling, Lord Justice Lindblom told a packed court: "The Paris Agreement ought to have been taken into account by the Secretary of State in the preparation of the NPS and an explanation given as to how it was taken into account, but it was not."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who supported the legal action, welcomed the decision.

He said: "We won! Today we blocked the Tory government plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Today's judgment is a major victory for all Londoners who are passionate about tackling the climate emergency and cleaning up our air."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "The court has decided that the Airports National Policy Statement is fatally undermined by ignoring climate commitments, but we still need the Government to permanently ground Heathrow's expansion plans."

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, John McDonnell said the Court of Appeal's judgment was a "tremendous victory" for campaigners.

Local residents rallied with green groups to bring the case against Heathrow
Local residents rallied with green groups to bring the case against Heathrow. Picture: PA

He added: "There's no way we can tackle climate change and allow Heathrow expansion to go ahead. I think that project is now dead."

But Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, an industry body representing UK-registered airlines, called the decision "extremely disappointing".

"The Sir Howard Davies Airports Commission spent several years looking at airport capacity in the South East and was clear Heathrow is the only game in town, with other schemes being considered and ultimately rejected.

"The economic prize is enormous if expansion is done right, with airlines ready to respond to the unlocking of new capacity by creating new routes and helping to connect the UK to new markets and destinations, and Heathrow to regions across the country.

"UK aviation has committed to net zero carbon by 2050 and this factors in the emissions created by Heathrow expansion. It is not a question of being pro-aviation or pro-environment."