Heathrow Airport has won a Supreme Court challenge over the Government’s decision to give the go-ahead for a third runway.
A panel of five justices at the UK’s highest court allowed Heathrow to expand by building the controversial third runway following a two-day hearing.
In February the plans were declared unlawful on environmental grounds by the Court of Appeal and in October the Supreme Court heard a challenge over the Government’s decision to green-light the project.
Tim Crosland, a lawyer involved in the campaign against the plans, had announced that the justices would allow the expansion yesterday, breaking a legal embargo ‘as an act of civil disobedience’.
John Stewart, who chairs anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: ‘Despite this verdict, there remains real doubt about whether the third runway will ever see the light of day.
‘Recovery is all that is on Heathrow’s mind right now. Flight numbers are down nearly 90%. The airport’s expansion team has long since been disbanded.
‘A third runway remains no more than a distant and uncertain prospect.’
Paul McGuinness, who chairs the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said the ruling ‘may yet prove irrelevant with so much having changed since Heathrow was recommended for expansion’.
Heathrow Airport has won a Supreme Court challenge over the Government’s decision to give the go-ahead for a third runway
He went on: ‘The assessments on air quality, noise, carbon and the economics are all out of date, with chunks having already been exposed as inadequate.
‘Moreover, the Government’s climate advisers say expanding Heathrow in the prosperous South East would mean restrictions on aviation in less advantaged regions. Such a drift in policy is not compatible with today’s levelling up agenda.
‘Heathrow’s campaign is mired in economic self-interest and, rather than allowing it to drift on interminably, we would urge the Government to look to the country’s wider interests and drop the Airports National Policy Statement altogether.’
Caroline Russell, Green Party transport spokesperson and London Assembly member, said: ‘Heathrow expansion would be a disaster for London.
‘It already disrupts the health and quality of life of more than three times as many people as any other airport in Europe.
‘Neither Londoners nor the planet can afford to see its size and damage grow.’
Richard Fremantle, who chairs pressure group Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: ‘It is official – 2020 is the worst year ever. Our climate is in a desperate state, our communities are going into yet another Christmas with Heathrow’s blight hanging over their heads.
‘The onus is now on the Government to rule out Heathrow expansion, as continuing to allow it to happen would be committing a massive retrograde step for our environment ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 summit next year.
‘Even the Government’s climate advisers say that Heathrow expansion would mean a reduction in capacity elsewhere across the country, at levels that will require closures.
‘The only people set to benefit from this project are Heathrow’s overpaid directors, who are due huge bonuses were spades ever to set foot in the ground.
‘It is now down to this Government to call Heathrow’s bluff and end this miserable project once and for all.’
Justine Bayley, a resident of Harmondsworth, who faces having to leave her home if the third runway is built, said: ‘I’m disappointed as I’d hoped sense would prevail and the Court of Appeal’s judgment would be upheld.
‘Heathrow may have won this particular ruling, but there are many more hurdles in their way before they have final approval to build a third runway.
‘I’m not giving up and continue to believe that sense will prevail, and that Heathrow expansion will never actually happen.’
More to follow…
How this is the latest development in 17 years of wrangling over Heathrow Airport
December 2003: Labour ministers publish plans for a third runway at Heathrow, saying it is needed to keep pace with other European hubs.
January 2009: Gordon Brown green lights plans despite opposition from residents, environmental activists and many of his own MPs.
October 2009: As Opposition leader, David Cameron publicly states he will block Heathrow expansion.
May 2010: The Tory-Lib Dem Coalition emerges after the election, and rules out the west London plans.
September 2012: The idea is revived as an independent commission is set up to look at expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick, and a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
July 2015: The Airports Commission recommends Heathrow should get a new runway.
July 2016: David Cameron resigns as PM in the wake of the EU referendum, and is replaced by Theresa May – with no decision taken on Heathrow.
July 2017: Heathrow scales back proposals for a new terminal to reduce project costs.
June 2018: Revised plans with a £14billion price tag are approved by Cabinet, with the proviso that taxpayers will not face any cost.
June 25, 2018: Greg Hands resigns from government to vote against the National Policy Statement (NPS) – effectively outline planning permission. But Boris Johnson, who previously vowed to ‘lie down in front of bulldozers’, is abroad in Afghanistan when MPs vote in favour by a majority of 296.
December 2019: As PM, Boris Johnson does not change official policy on Heathrow but says he will ‘find a way’ of honouring his bulldozer pledge.
February 2020: The Court of Appeal rules that the NPS was unlawful as government had not considered its obligations under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Government says it does not support appealing the case, but Heathrow says it will go to the Supreme Court.
April 2020: The airport says all expansion plans will be pushed back by at least two years due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus.
May 2020: Heathrow admits it could be 10 to 15 years before the airport needs a third runway due to the crisis.