May 20, 2024

Heathrow expansion thrown into doubt

Plans to expand London Heathrow Airport with a third runway have been thrown into doubt after a court ruling.

In a case taken to the Court of Appeal by environmental groups and councils, the expansion plans – which were approved by the government in 2018 – have been deemed unlawful because they did not take into account the UK’s commitments to tackling climate change.

Transport minister Grant Shapps says the government will not appeal the decision but a spokesperson for Heathrow says it will appeal to the Supreme Court.

“The Court of Appeal ruled… that when designating the Airports National Policy Statement, which was backed by Parliament, the previous government did not take account of the Paris Agreement, non-CO2 emissions and emissions post 2050,” says Shapps.

“We have always been clear that Heathrow expansion is a private sector project which must meet strict criteria on air quality, noise and climate change, as well as being privately financed, affordable, and delivered in the best interest of consumers.

“The government has taken the decision not to appeal this judgment. The promoters of the scheme will be able to seek permission from the Supreme Court to appeal if they wish.”

Will Rundle, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth – one of the groups that led the legal challenge – says: “This case revealed that the government accepted legal advice that it should not consider the Paris Agreement when giving the third runway the go-ahead. The Court has said very clearly that was illegal.

“This judgment has exciting wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions.”

The Business Travel Association has called on the government to develop a revised Airports National Policy Statement that makes new runway capacity achievable within effective, climate-conscious boundaries.

“The need for additional runway capacity in South East England is crucial if the UK is to continue to build effective trade links with key markets across the globe,” says a statement from the BTA.

“For this reason, the BTA is supportive of expanding Heathrow’s runway capacity, but it is essential that this is done within a framework of effective climate commitments.”