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Heathrow Airport begins Supreme Court appeal over third runway block

Heathrow Airport began a Supreme Court appeal today (Wednesday) over the decision to block the build of a third runway.

In 2018, then Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling designated a document called the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), which supports the development of a third runway at Heathrow.

But legal action has been taken since by climate campaigners hoping to stop the plans going ahead.

Aims for a judicial review failed, but the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a case brought by the environmental charities – Plan B and Friends of the Earth – in February this year.

A judgement found that the designation of the ANPS was unlawful and that it failed to take into account the Government's commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Heathrow was given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court via a virtual hearing which started today and is due to end tomorrow (Thursday).

A decision is not expected to be made until January.

This morning’s session heard solely from Lord Anderson QC, representing Heathrow, with campaign groups set to put their case forward later in the proceedings.

Lord Anderson told the court that Heathrow is ‘committed to playing its full part ' in avoiding or mitigating the harmful effects of climate change’.

He added: “Heathrow Airport Limited does still [want] to construct the north-west runway.

“The argument presented by Friends of the Earth is unduly formalistic and wrong.”

Lord Anderson also said that he would not expect the third runway to be ready until 2030 at the earliest.

Campaigners secured victory at the Court of Appeal earlier this year for their reference to the Paris Climate Agreement, which was adopted in December 2015.

The agreement aspires to achieve a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions level during the latter half of the 21st century.

In response to this, Lord Anderson told the court: “Paris did not form an appropriate basis on which to form the ANPS.”

“A global aim is not capable of being Government policy for the purposes of assessing the potential carbon effects of an individual development scheme.”

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said before the hearing that the group ‘remain confident the court will re-affirm that the Paris Agreement cannot be ignored’.

He added that ‘all the damaging climate impacts of Heathrow expansion must be fully considered in any decision.’

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