High Court Rules in Favour of Heathrow

A CGI representation of what Heathrow would look like with its third runway in place. (HAL)

On May 1, campaigners challenging the UK Government’s decision to push ahead with building a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport lost their case at the High Court. The action was brought against the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, five local councils, London residents and high-profile charities including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

In June 2018 MPs backed plans to build a third runway at Heathrow by a majority of 296 but the campaigners argued that the move would be tantamount to building a “new airport” that would have a “severe” effect on local communities. It has been estimated that passenger numbers could increase by 60%.

The campaigners said the government’s National Policy Statement (NPS), which outlined its support for the new runway, did not fully account for the impact on air quality, noise pollution, congestion and climate change. The Government’s legal team described the campaigner’s case as “premature” as they would have the chance to put their case at a later stage in the planning process.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom, together with Mr Justice Holgate, concluded: “We understand that these claims involve underlying issues upon which the parties – and indeed many members of the public – hold strong and sincere views.

“There was a tendency for the substance of the parties’ positions to take more of a centre stage than perhaps it should have done, in a hearing that was only concerned with the legality, and not the merits, of the Airports National Policy Statement.”

The decision means that the government will not have to create a new NPS and put it to another vote in Parliament.

After the ruling Heathrow Airport issued the following statement: “We are delighted with today’s ruling which is a further demonstration that the debate on Heathrow expansion has been had and won, not only in Parliament, but in the courts also. We are getting on with delivering the once-in-a-generation project that will connect Britain to global growth, providing thousands of new jobs and an economic boost for this country and its future generations.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, commented: “This verdict will not reduce the impact on local communities from increased noise and air pollution, nor will it resolve Heathrow Ltd’s financial difficulties or the economic weakness in their expansion plans.”

Shirley Rodrigues, deputy London mayor for environment and energy, added: “In challenging the decision to expand Heathrow, [Mayor] Sadiq has stood up for Londoners who have serious concerns about the damaging impact it will have.

“We will now consider the judgement and consult with our co-claimants before deciding our next steps.”