High Court dismisses legal challenges to Heathrow’s third runway

Control tower at London Heathrow Airport

The High Court in London has ruled against campaigners challenging the legality of the UK government’s decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The challenges  were from a coalition of objectors including the Mayor of London.

Caroline Russell, chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, said: “Although the Government’s policy on Heathrow has survived this court hearing, it is still not the right course for London or the environment.”

UK freight forwarder group BIFA’s director general Robert Keen welcomed the news: “On behalf of BIFA member companies, which are keen for the greater number of flights and accompanying airfreight capacity that would result from a new runway, I can only hope that yesterday’s ruling helps bring the debate on Heathrow expansion closer to an end.

“However, whilst some have said that the ruling is another important step towards bringing fifty years of indecision and delay on expanding Heathrow to a welcome close, the likelihood of further legal challenges to an extra runway emerging still leaves me with a certain sense of foreboding whether the spades will ever hit the ground.

“Any further legal challenges need to be handled robustly and need to be accompanied by an expedited planning procedure, which has been mentioned previously, with no reopening of high level arguments.”

Commenting on the ruling, a Heathrow spokesperson 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.”

In June 2018, UK Members of Parliament (MPs) voted 415 to 119 in favour of plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport. The decision, with a majority of 296, was the latest in a 50 year political saga for an additional runway which could now operational by 2026 at an estimated cost of £14bn.

However, more legal challenges to an extra runway seem likely to emerge. Russell cited “increasing evidence of an escalating climate emergency” and called on the government to cancel Heathrow expansion plans “before more money is spent and more damage is done.”

She said: “The Government’s own figures show that the extra traffic caused by expansion will worsen air pollution widely across London, shortening Londoners’ lives. At the same time, 200,000 more people will be affected by noise from an expanded Heathrow.

The chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, said: “It is bitterly disappointing that the High Court has made this decision. The London Assembly has long been opposed to the expansion of Heathrow – all advice from the Assembly, protestors and experts seems to have fallen on deaf ears.”

UK business leaders welcomed the High Court ruling. Tom Thackray, CBI Infrastructure and Energy Director, said: “This clear ruling is another important step towards bringing fifty years of indecision and delay on expanding Heathrow to a welcome close.

“Firms know we can’t wait any longer for the growth in trade we need to see if the UK is to remain a globally competitive economy.

“As Heathrow’s plans show, expansion can – and must – be delivered in a way that benefits our economy and protects our environment as we deliver our ambitious climate change targets.

“With the new global links and routes it will bring, and the opportunity to unlock jobs right across the UK, a third runway at Heathrow operational by the 2030s will set the UK on course for a bright trading future.”

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