A third runway at Heathrow has been put on hold following a ruling at the High Court, which stated that existing government policy approving a third runway needed to be reviewed.
Both campaigners that are anti-expansion and the government are claiming victory as the ruling forces a lengthy delay, yet does not rule the new runway out altogether.
According to a coalition of groups opposed to the third runway, which includes green groups and 24 London Boroughs and Councils, the government’s policy is now “in tatters”.
At the High Court, Lord Justice Carnwath ruled that the 2003 Air Transport White Paper – the foundation of expansion plans across the country – is obsolete because it is inconsistent with the Climate Change Act 2008, which had been one of the key arguments of the anti-expansion group.
The 24 London boroughs and councils that form the 2M Group are opposed to Heathrow expansion. “If you are concerned about the extra noise from aircraft using a third runway, the worsening air pollution or just the pressure on already overcrowded roads and trains, today is a turning point,” said Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister on behalf of the group.
“A judge has told the government that it has simply not moved with the times. The world has changed since 2003 when it announced its plans for further expansion at Heathrow and other airports.
“Ever since then successive ministers have been saying the policy was set in stone. But the judge found the government hadn’t looked at the economics or the environmental impacts properly or that they even knew how people would get to an expanded airport.
“Ministers will still try to claim nothing has changed but today’s ruling makes it plain that position is untenable in law. They cannot carry on as if nothing has happened. If despite everything they still want a third runway they are going to have start all over again.”
However, the government argued that, despite the need for a review of climate change and transport policy, the ruling would not mean ruling out a third runway.
“A new runway at Heathrow will help secure jobs and underpin economic growth as we come out of recession,” said transport secretary Lord Adonis. “It is also entirely compatible with our carbon reduction target, as demonstrated in the recent report by the Committee on Climate Change,” he said.
A spokesman for Heathrow owner BAA said: “Permission to build a third runway at Heathrow is an important decision for the country, which demands extensive consultation. This judgement was about the process of consultation, not the arguments for or against a third runway, which we believe remain strongly in favour of new capacity at the UK’s only hub airport. As we produce more detailed proposals, those will be open to full public scrutiny.”