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High Court backs Heathrow Airport expansion plan

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A group of High Court judges have rejected a legal challenge mounted against Heathrow Airport’s expansion plan.

Following a judicial review of the government’s National Policy Statement, High Court judges have supported Heathrow Airport Ltd’s expansion plans. The National Policy Statement was approved by MPs in June 2018, paving the way for Heathrow expansion. 

Of the 26 grounds for the challenge, all were dismissed with 21 of the 26 not even held to be arguable. 

Five legal challenges to the expansion programme – from Heathrow Hub, environmentalists, London mayor Sadiq Khan and local councils – were simultaneously heard at the High Court at the end of March.

They were mounted after the House of Commons voted in favour of building the runway, approving transport secretary Chris Grayling’s National Policy Statement (NPS) by 415 votes to 119, in June last year. 

London Assembly Transport Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon expressed “bitter dissapointment” at the ruling. 

“It is bitterly disappointing that the High Court has made this decision. The London Assembly has long been opposed to the expansion of Heathrow – all advice from the Assembly, protestors and experts seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” she said.

“This Committee has consistently raised the issue of the government’s lack of planning for improving surface transport access to Heathrow Airport, yet the situation remains largely unchanged.

“The government has persisted with this decision without proper preparation for the influx of people that would be travelling to and from Heathrow by car, train and many other means.

“Added to this pressure is the delay of Crossrail until possibly Spring 2021. The government must now focus urgently on better public transport links to and from Heathrow.” 

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Aviation Environment Federation labelled the expansion plan as a “bad investment”. 

“Heathrow Airport is already the biggest single source of CO2 emissions in the UK and there are no low-carbon aviation technologies ready to be rolled out any time soon. Building a new runway would mean making a big, bad investment in more fossil fuels and more CO2 from aviation,” the spokesperson said. 

“It will ultimately be for the secretary of state of the day to decide whether or not to approve Heathrow’s application for planning permission, and to judge whether or not a third runway is compatible with the UK’s climate commitments.

“The public and political mood on this issue has shifted massively since the original Heathrow vote, and the Committee on Climate Change report later this week is likely to say that all sectors will need to contribute towards achieving net zero emissions in the UK. No one should assume that Heathrow expansion is certain. In many ways, the climate case against the third runway is stronger than ever.”

A Heathrow spokesperson added: “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.” 

London First chief executive Jasmine Whitbread also welcomed the ruling. “This is yet another endorsement that expansion at Heathrow is the right decision, backed by Parliament, trade unions and the thousands of British businesses who will benefit from the economic boost a new runway will bring,” she said.

“It’s time to get on with this vital national project and show the world we are open to business.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Excellent news, we desperately need more high quality infrastructure in this country. Along with HS2 and Crossrail this should serve us well for years and provide a good return on investment.

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