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What to expect from Heathrow expansion court case

3113984 heathrow taxiways

Those against Heathrow’s third runway will put their case before the High Court over the next two weeks. 

Five legal challenges against expansion - from local councils, environmentalists and London Mayor Sadiq Khan - will be heard at the High Court in London from today.

The full hearing has arrived after High Court judge Justice Holgate ruled that a judicial review would hear all the legal challenges simultaneously in a preliminary hearing in October.

The legal challenges were mounted 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.

The full hearing for all the cases is set to last 10 days, finishing on March 22. They will be heard in the Administrative Court, a division of the High Court.

After the hearing, it will take up to two months before a decision is handed down by High Court judges Justice Holgate and Lord Justice Hickinbottom after deliberating on the arguments put forward.

It is possible for the court to rule that the government’s NPS, which sets out its support for a new runway at Heathrow, be quashed or revised. If this happens, Grayling would be forced to draft a new NPS if he still wished to push forward with expansion, which would require another parliamentary vote for approval. 

The first challenge is being brought by mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Greenpeace and local authorities including Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham, and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

The grounds of their joint challenge are on air quality, inadequate environmental assessment, climate change, surface access, breach of the habitats directive and a flawed consultation process.

Meanwhile Heathrow Hub is also bringing forward a legal challenge. The rival expansion firm has argued that extending one of the existing runways at Heathrow is a more cost-effective way of expanding the airport.

Heathrow Hub’s plan to rebuild the runway was dismissed by a government-appointed commission in 2015 which instead favoured the option to build a third runway, however the firm is arguing that parts of the decision-making process were flawed.

In its own legal challenge, Friends of the Earth is arguing the government’s NPS represents a breach of the UK’s climate change policy and sustainable development obligations.

Plan B, a charity which works to tackle climate change, argues that building a third runway breaches legal obligations under the Planning Act to reduce the impact of climate change and that the NPS does not give due consideration to the government’s duties under the Paris Climate Agreement.

A legal challenge is also being brought forward by solicitor and Aviation Environment Federation member Neil Spurrier on the grounds that the government did not respond adequately to recommendations made by the Transport Select Committee which provided official parliamentary scrutiny of the draft NPS.

Following the ruling, appeals may be made by parties unsatisfied with the legal basis for the outcome, potentially resulting in further uncertainty in the coming months for those seeking to expand Heathrow.

Speaking of the prospect of appeals being made, Friends of the Earth legal head Will Rundle told New Civil Engineer: “From a commercial certainty point of view it could be difficult for Heathrow.”

Under the current plans construction of the third runway is set to begin in 2021.

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