Heathrow expansion plan revived
By Bev Fearis, published 16/12/20
The Supreme Court has overturned a ban on a third runway at Heathrow Airport, allowing the controversial plans to proceed.
The airport’s expansion had been blocked since February when the Appeal Court ruled the Government’s strategy failed to meet UK environmental targets after a case brought by Friends of the Earth and other climate activists.
But today the Supreme Court ruled the expansion strategy was legitimately based on previous, less stringent, climate targets at the time it was agreed.
Today’s ruling means Heathrow can now seek a development consent order, a type of planning permission, but still has major obstacles to overcome.
The next stage will take into consideration stricter pledges to cut emissions made recently by the UK Government.
Will Rundle, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “This judgment is no ‘green light’ for expansion. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage. Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain and we now look forward to stopping the third runway in the planning arena.
“With ever stronger climate policy commitments that Heathrow must meet, it remains unlikely it will ever get planning permission for the third runway. Friends of the Earth will fight it all the way. We are in this for people everywhere facing climate breakdown right now, and for the next generation who are being left to inherit a world changed for the worse.”
But a Heathrow spokesperson insisted today’s ruling was “the right result for the country” and said it would be able to meet the Government’s criteria.
“Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.
“The Government has made decarbonising aviation a central part of its green growth agenda, through wider use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel as well as new technology. As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure their safety and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps.”
Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of the business coalition, Back Heathrow, added: “This is an important moment for local communities, desperate for jobs and apprenticeships at a very hard time for our economy.
“It is also a huge moment for the UK as it moves towards an uncertain Brexit, but now with the confidence that international trade could be boosted by additional capacity at the country’s only hub airport.
“We believe this news reflects a unity of purpose between the highest court in the land and our parliament – which has already delivered a majority of 296 for sustainable expansion at Heathrow.”
Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, said: “This ruling should mark the definitive end of any debate about the expansion of Heathrow airport. This project is an essential piece of the Global Britain jigsaw and it has been repeatedly endorsed by businesses, employees, trades unions, and MPs right across the country.
“Having left the European Union, our international connections will only become more important as we look to attract trade, talent, and tourism. This ruling reasserts the UK as a reliable partner and a sound place for international investors to do business.
“Critical infrastructure projects like this will be a fundamental part of the post-Covid recovery, ensuring a strong economic future for the UK and generations to come.”