Legal challenge against Heathrow’s third runway underway

Today marks the first day of a judicial review which will see High Court judges decide the fate of controversial plans to expand Heathrow Airport after a legal challenge was launched by the mayor of London Sadiq Khan and five councils in the capital back in July.

The legal challenge which is being backed by the environmental charity Greenpeace will attempt to scupper any ambitions to construct a third runway at the UK’s busiest airport on grounds of air quality, noise and climate change.

The case is being brought against transport secretary Chris Grayling by local authorities and residents in London affected by the expansion with the government’s National Policy Statement (NPS) said to not properly deal with the detrimental impacts.

Claimants argue the NPS is unlawful and are therefore hoping to force the government to start the process again whereby another vote in parliament would be necessary. It comes after parliament approval when the government-backed scheme passed the Commons by 415 votes to 119 - a majority of 296.

Government has pledged that the airport will be built at no cost to the taxpayer, create up to 100,000 new jobs and benefit the entire country through guaranteed internal flights to the rest of the UK. 

But environmental groups along with the challenge filed by Khan and London councils have argued how expansion will result in thousands being displaced and blighted by noise and increased pollution levels.

The five councils behind the action include Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead. A letter signed by all five has previously been sent to the Department for Transport (DfT) challenging the decision.

Protestors have gathered outside the High Court in central London today to repeat their message on why plans for a third runway should not go ahead.

Laura MacKenzie, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The UK government claims to be a climate leader yet supports the pending emissions disaster that is the third runway at Heathrow. An expanded Heathrow Airport would put seven hundred extra planes a day into our skies, pumping millions of tonnes of carbon into our atmosphere. With the impacts of climate chaos already being suffered by millions around the world, we simply cannot allow this to go ahead.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are participating in the legal challenges as an interested party given our role as the promoter of this critically important, national project. Our work in delivering Britain’s new runway will continue in tandem with this process following overwhelming support in parliament. We remain focused on the work needed for our development consent order submission in 2020 and we are getting on with the delivery of this project which will benefit the whole of the UK.”

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye has also disputed the impact of any judicial review in the past. While supporting the need for people to be able to freely argue their position, he does not see the challenges holding up development.

“The judicial reviews are going to run in parallel with the planning process so we will crack on with preparations,” he added. “But I think it’s important they happen as we have got to give confidence to local people so they know where they stand, but equally we are making a massive investment in our supply chain both locally and nationally so we need to get on and create the pipeline of jobs needed to build the runway.”

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