Log in | Register

High Court dismisses Heathrow expansion challenge

Words: Laura Edgar
Heathrow Airport / iStock_000027415278

Campaigners and London boroughs have lost their challenge to the development of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

The legal actions were mounted by a coalition of local authorities around the West London airport (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames and Windsor and Maidenhead) and the Mayor of London, as well as environmental groups Plan B, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Friends of the Earth alleged that the government’s decision to allow the expansion is unlawful because it failed to take account of the need to mitigate climate change under the Paris agreement.

The councils contended that the extension could bring long-term damage to the health of millions of Londoners and warned that large areas of London and the Home Counties will be affected by noise from the north-west runway.

The Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was approved by MPs in June last year.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Holgate found that none of the grounds pursued against the Airports NPS had been made good.

“Having heard full argument of all issues, it is a somewhat curious exercise to determine which grounds were arguable and which were not.” The arguable grounds were found to be: Ground 8: Habitats; Ground 9.1: Relationship with other plans; Ground 9.2: Environmental characteristics of likely areas to be affected not identified; and Ground 10: Consultation.

Each of the four claims was dismissed.

The judges 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 parties’ positions to take more of a centre stage than perhaps it should have done, in a hearing that was concerned only with the legality (and not the merits) of the ANPS.”


A spokesperson for Heathrow 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.”

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “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.”

Update: Friends of the Earth to challenge High Court decision

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said: "Expanding Heathrow is wrong on every level and we can’t let it go. I could not sleep at night if Friends of the Earth did not challenge this decision. We are going to appeal because we believe the court got it wrong.  

“We are in an ecological and climate emergency and parliament have supported an outdated decision to chase climate-wrecking development. How can we take any government remotely seriously when they claim to care about climate chaos while supporting this runway?

“We are going to continue this fight because it’s about more than a runway, it is actually about a future fit for our children.”

Read more:

Heathrow expansion plans go to court

Image credit | iStock