Heathrow campaigners lose challenge against third runway

British Airways Airbus A380 landing at HeathrowImage copyright PA

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge against the government’s decision to approve plans for a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport.

Five councils, residents, environmental charities and London Mayor Sadiq Khan brought the action after MPs backed the plans in June.

The campaigners said the runway would effectively create a “new airport”, having a “severe” impact on Londoners.

But judges rejected the arguments, ruling the plans were lawful.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The expansion of Heathrow is vital and will provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities across the length and breadth of Britain, all at no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations.

“I now call on all public bodies not to waste any more taxpayers’ money or seek to further delay this vital project.”

But John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “This verdict will not reduce the impact on local communities from increased noise and air pollution, nor will it resolve Heathrow Ltd’s financial difficulties or the economic weakness in their expansion plans.”

Shirley Rodrigues, deputy London mayor for environment and energy, said: “In challenging the decision to expand Heathrow, Sadiq has stood up for Londoners who have serious concerns about the damaging impact it will have.

“We will now consider the judgement and consult with our co-claimants before deciding our next steps.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Campaigners said a third runway would effectively create a “new airport”

The case was brought against the transport secretary by five local authorities in London affected by the expansion – Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor and Maidenhead.

Residents and charities including Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth and Plan B also joined the action.

They argued that the government’s National Policy Statement (NPS), setting out its support for the project, failed to account fully for the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

Outlining the case on behalf of campaigners, Nigel Pleming QC had said the plans could see the number of passengers using the airport rise to an estimated 132 million – an increase of 60%.

‘Strong and sincere views’

But lawyers representing Mr Grayling said the claimants’ case was “premature”, as they would have the opportunity to make representations at a later stage in the planning process.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom, sitting with Mr Justice Holgate, said in the ruling on Wednesday: “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 ruling means the government will not have to devise a new NPS and put it to another vote in Parliament.

It won its first vote by a comfortable majority of 296 after Labour MPs were granted a free vote.

The decision to expand Heathrow follows almost half a century of indecision on how and where to add new airport capacity in south-east England.

Under the current £14bn plan, construction could begin in 2021, with the third runway operational by 2026.

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