Fifth legal challenge submitted against Heathrow expansion

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth have submitted the latest legal challenge against a proposed third runway at Heathrow with the group claiming the £15bn expansion is unlawful due to its inability to address the UK’s climate change obligations.

Lawyers Leigh Day representing the group have filed an application for judicial review in the High Court in London citing claims that the National Policy Statement fails to account for all the impacts on future generations, who will be left with the adverse consequences of growth from aviation-increasing climate impacts.

Campaigners say ministers have failed to explain how the decision took account of domestic targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction under the Climate Change Act 2008. 

It follows another campaign group’s attempts to stop the third runway after Plan B launched legal action this week against the Department for Transport's (DfT) decision to back Heathrow expansion, on the basis that it breaches legal obligations in the UK's Planning Act to alleviate the impacts of climate change.

The legal bid submitted by Friends of the Earth is the fifth since MPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of expansion. The others include the mayor of London and London councils, rival scheme Heathrow Hub, Greenpeace and the two campaign groups mentioned this week.

A decision on whether to grant Friends of the Earth's legal claim a full hearing is expected to be made in the autumn, according to the charity.

Commenting on the application, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns Liz Hutchins said: “The government’s airports strategy completely ignores its obligations to tackle climate change - this is short-sighted, incredibly reckless and we believe it is unlawful. Allowing the aviation industry to pump more pollution into the atmosphere will make it far harder to prevent catastrophic climate change – and leaves future generations to suffer the consequences. It’s time to end our reliance on the fossil fuels that are already roasting our planet and threatening peoples’ lives, homes and livelihoods.”

In response, a DfT spokesperson said the government was "confident in the decision-making process which led to designation of the Airports National Policy Statement, and stand ready to defend it robustly against legal challenge".

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye has previously downplayed the impact any legal reviews will have on the progress of the third runway. “The judicial reviews are going to run in parallel with the planning process so we will crack on with preparations. If you think about HS2, I think they had maybe four or five reviews and it didn’t hold up the progress of the rail network and the same will happen with Heathrow,” he added.

According to the government, residents affected by the scheme will get compensation worth 125% of their value, along with legal fees and stamp duty included - with £2.2bn worth of compensation on offer. A further £700m will also be available to pay for noise insulation for people who remain in the homes.

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