Campaigners secure legal victory over Heathrow third runway

Viewpoint letters (June 27, 2019)

The proposed third runway at Heathrow

Campaigners, including the Royal Borough council, have secured a major victory in their fight against the Government's support for the proposed Heathrow third runway.

A judgement released by the Court of Appeal this morning found that the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) by the Secretary of State for Transport in June 2018, setting out the Government's support for a third runway, was unlawful.

The court found that it failed to take into account the Government's commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

It decided 'the appropriate remedy is a declaration, the effect of which will be to declare the designation decision
unlawful and to prevent the ANPS from having any legal effect unless and until the Secretary of State has undertaken a review of it in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions'.

A decision summary makes clear that judges 'have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow' but that the Government will have the opportunity to reconsider the ANPS 'in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that Parliament has imposed'.

The decision follows an appeal last year, brought by a coalition of councils, including the Royal Borough, and environmental groups against a decision not to grant a judicial review into the Government’s choice to support a third runway.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “The Court of Appeal dismissed all appeals against the government - including on 'noise' and 'air quality' - apart from one which is eminently fixable.  

"We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident that we will be successful. In the meantime, we are ready to work with the Government to fix the issue that the court has raised. 

"Heathrow has taken a lead in getting the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to get to Net Zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord.

"Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of Global Britain. We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future. Let’s get Heathrow done."

The judgement said the Government has not sought permission to appeal the decision.


Slough Borough Council have been supportive of Heathrow's expansion plans.

In a statement Cllr James Swindlehurst said:“All appeal issues against the Department for Transport were dismissed by Judges except one, pertaining to carbon management and climate change.

"The Government passed targets from the Paris Climate Agreement into UK law in 2016 and this technical judgement suggests they have not incorporated some of those commitments in this into their 2018 aviation policy.

"The focus of pressure form Airport communities has been to make sure that development at Heathrow is sustainable and therefore this has always been a key issue in relation to expansion.

"As an airport authority, Slough wants Heathrow to operate in a sustainable way, which HAL have indicated is possible by 2050 through strategies they have been announcing.

"There is a separate but related issue about the breaching of environmental targets during the construction phase of a third runway. What is not in doubt is that expanding the UK’s only hub airport is absolutely crucial for the future success of Slough, and for the whole country.

"Expansion will bring 5,000 new apprenticeships, unprecedented career opportunities and the possibility of eradicating youth unemployment across Slough and the Thames Valley.”

"Heathrow Airport Limited have already indicated they will appeal this judgement to the Supreme Court and I assume the Government will now be taking steps to ensure that the climate targets that they have adopted are reflected in their wider policies and in developments plans for wider infrastructure projects.

"There is clearly a way that the environment can take great prominence in the planning of a third Heathrow runway. I hope that work will now be undertaken to ensure this is the case, as this is the way for both the airport and its communities to benefit from an expanded Heathrow.”


Strong words from pro-Heathrow group Back Heathrow.

Executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “This decision today, after years of dithering and delay will be viewed with concern and anger by local communities who are desperate for the jobs and economic opportunities expansion would produce. 

“Heathrow already has a plan to meet Paris Agreement targets. We already know it can only happen by passing tough regulations on air quality, noise and carbon reduction. 

“It’s an insult to Parliament, which voted for it with a huge majority. It’s also bad news for the trade unions and CBI, who backed it for the 180,000 new jobs it can deliver for local communities and the country.

“Government must take the initiative and amend its national policy statement to reflect the court decision on climate change targets and get on and build the new runway.”

“The decision is a bad one for the UK economy. It hands the trading initiative to rival airports in Europe. More than ever, Britain needs more capacity at Heathrow if it is to take advantage of new trading opportunities.”


A statement has now come through.

Cllr Johnson, leader of the Royal Borough, said: “We are pleased with the outcome handed down today which will force the Government to do the right thing and review the Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS), ensuring that any proposed airport expansion does not contravene the Paris Agreement and further impact the environment.”


We are still waiting to hear a response from the Royal Borough...


Malcolm Beer, chairman of the local authorities aircraft noise council, believes ‘human health seems to have been totally disregarded’ and said Heathrow’s expansion plans are entirely about ‘economic development’ and does not take into account the wellbeing of residents near the airport.


The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, who was not in the post when the ANPS decision was made, has confirmed the Government will not appeal the judgement.


Friends of the Earth was one of the groups involved in the challenge.

Will Rundle, head of legal for the environmental campaign group, said: “This judgment has exciting wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions.

"It’s time for developers and public authorities to be held to account when it comes to the climate impact of their damaging developments.”


Windsor MP Adam Afriyie has reacted to the news

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  • Pursuer

    14:58, 27 February 2020

    Corporate greed will fight on- the Supreme Court will find in its favour and lots of lawyers will have made shed loads of money- so that all right then isn't it?. Aircraft pour tonnes of pollutants into the atmosphere umpteeen times more than any road vehicle and they also chuck out poisonous organo-phosphates- you know the type, banned in insecticides years ago. When these greedy captains of industry have killed the planet & its populace where & how will anyone fly? As for these greedy bods, well remember there are no pockets in shrouds and there is no point in being the richest man in the churchyard.



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