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Exclusive | Rival Heathrow expansion groups to lock horns at judicial review

Heathrow expansion

Rival Heathrow expansion groups Arora Group and Heathrow Hub are set to clash over the government’s Aviation National Policy Statement (NPS), according to a legal document exclusively obtained by New Civil Engineer.

According to the document, Arora Group will claim that it can deliver its expansion plan under the current NPS, while Heathrow Hub will demand the NPS is scrapped as it creates a “monopoly” for Heathrow Airport Limited . Heathrow Airport Ltd is the current operator of the airport as well as the favourite to deliver the expansion programme. 

Arora is one of the largest landowners at the airport. It says its expansion plan is less expensive than the third runway scheme proposed by Heathrow Airport Limited. Under its proposals, Arora will focus on adding new terminal capacity between Heathrow Terminal 5 and the M25, avoiding the need to redevelop existing terminals.

Heathrow Hub Ltd has argued that extending one of the existing runways at Heathrow is a more cost-effective way of expanding the airport.

The NPS covers the expansion of Heathrow Airport and is the primary basis for decision making on development consent applications for the third runway, referred to in the document as the North West Runway (NWR). 

The hearing will take place as part of the ongoing judicial review of the government’s decision to back the Heathrow expansion programme. The judicial review began last week after High Court judge justice Holgate ruled that a judicial review would hear all legal challenges against expansion simultaneously in a preliminary hearing in October.

Heathrow Hub Ltd will argue that the NPS breaches European Union law because its effect will be “the dramatic extension of (Heathrow Airport Limited’s) monopoly position in the market for airport operation services at Heathrow”.

However, Arora will argue that Heathrow Hub’s objection is based on a flawed assumption.

“Heathrow Hub assumes without argument that the NWR scheme endorsed by the NPS is to be a project promoted, constructed and operated by Heathrow Airports Limited alone… However, that is not the correct characterisation,” the document reads.

“Whilst the NPS endorses the NWR scheme in favour of HHL’s northern runway extension [ENR] scheme and the Gatwick second runway scheme, it expressly leaves open the prospect of elements of the NWR scheme being promoted and carried out by different parties.”

It adds: “It does not fix the parameters of the future additional or reconfigured terminal facilities in terms that would require those facilities to be promoted and operated by HAL as opposed to an alternative approach such as the Arora Group’s Heathrow Western Hub proposal.

“The case for introducing competition in the construction and operation of terminal and associated facilities through the Western Hub remains open for a prospective competitor to HAL (such as the Arora Group) to make, consistently with the NPS.”

Despite arguing in favour of the current NPS, Arora will admit to being sympathetic to Heathrow Hub’s concerns about HAL’s existing “monopoly position in relation to the provision of airport operation services and related services at Heathrow Airport”. It is also concerned about the “undesirability of Heathrow expansion exacerbating the anti-competitive effects of that monopoly and leading to increased costs to both airlines and consumers”.

Yesterday, legal representatives for Arora and transport secretary Chris Grayling argued against claims brought against Heathrow expansion on environmental grounds.

Last month, Arora submitted a scoping document to the Planning Inspectorate setting out its plans to expand Heathrow Airport.

The firm’s owner, Surinder Arora, has claimed that increasing capacity to 130M passengers per year would cost HAL £31bn, compared to £14.4bn under Arora’s proposals. Heathrow says its plans would only cost £14bn.

In addition, Arora’s application does not cover the third runway, which would still be installed by HAL under its proposals.

The transport secretary will ultimately decide whether Arora Group or HAL is granted a development consent order for the expansion programme.

The judicial review was launched after the House of Commons voted in favour of building the runway at the airport, approving transport secretary Chris Grayling National Policy Statement by 415 votes to 119, in June.

Under Heathrow’s current plan construction will begin in 2021.

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