Court Ruling Blow for Anti-Third Runway Campaign

Legal challenge to government's decision to expand Heathrow fails

A challenge in the High Court to the decision to build a third runway has failed. A consortium of five councils, residents and environmental groups along with the Mayor of London brought the action after the Commons vote approving the plan.

The case was brought against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling on the basis that the National Policy Statement (NPS) on the project failed to deal adequately with issues such as pollution, climate change, noise and congestion.

The five councils involved in the action were Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor and Maidenhead.

Lawyers for the Government successfully argued that the case was ‘premature and unarguable’ as the planning process will allow for representations on these matters to be made later on.

The campaigners were represented at the judicial review by Nigel Pleming QC who said that the number of passengers using the airport would rise by 60% to an estimated 132 million.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom, sitting with Mr Justice Holgate, said, "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 government can now proceed with the NPS in its current form.

A Heathrow spokesperson said, “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.”

Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said, “This is not a win but not a loss. The judges were constrained by the legislation, stating that all these contentious matters need to be considered at the planning stage. But the fact remains that Heathrow expansion is a bad policy – economically, as well as environmentally. It should not go ahead and won’t go ahead. It will be challenged until defeated”

John Stewart, chair of HACAN which gives a voice to residents impacted by Heathrow, said, "This ruling removes a significant hurdle in Heathrow's bid to get a third runway but campaigners have vowed that they will continue their fight to stop expansion at the airport."

Caroline Russell AM, Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, said, “Although the Government’s policy on Heathrow has survived this court hearing, it is still not the right course for London or the environment.

“The Government’s own figures show that the extra traffic caused by expansion will worsen air pollution widely across London, shortening Londoners’ lives. At the same time, 200,000 more people will be affected by noise from an expanded Heathrow.”

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, pictred above, said that this wasn ot the end of the legal battle. The council will continue to explore every avenue possible to protect their residents from the health and environmental consequences of a third runway: “Today’s ruling is hugely disappointing for Londoners. It shows that the Government can drive through expansion plans without properly considering the full environmental and health impacts. But it does not mean the runway will ever be built. It still faces enormous legal obstacles particularly around air pollution.”

Justine Greening MP vowed to continue fighting the expansion on behalf of residents, telling this website: "This is a disappointing judicial review decision and it’s a pyrrhic victory for Heathrow and the Government. When the unrealistic environmental, pollution, transport and operational commitments unravel, communities & taxpayers will pick up the bill. It’s the wrong airport in the wrong place and I’ll continue to work with Wandsworth Council to campaign against it because it’s time people were listened to on noise."

Jackie Clark, Chair of Stop Heathrow Expansion, the campaign group based in the areas that would be demolished to make way for a third runway, said: “We’re disappointed but not defeated. We’ll supporting those who are likely to appeal this ruling and pursue legal action at the planning stage too, if necessary. Heathrow expansion is no more likely today than it was yesterday. As a local I’ve sat on the edge of my chair awaiting the end to this long saga but it goes on and on. It makes it hard to plan a life with my family and run my small business.”

Heathrow will now be consulting on its detailed proposals for a third runway in June. Once finalised they will go to a public inquiry in 2020 and, in the absence of any delays, the new runway would open in 2025 or 2026.

If Heathrow finally gets the all-clear, it aims to open the new runway in 2025/26.

May 1, 2019