Campaigners Celebrate Third Runway Killed Off After Legal Appeal Win

Court decides that environmental factors weren't fully taken into account

CGI image of how extended airport might have looked

Campaigners against the expansion of Heathrow Airport are celebrating what they believe is a decisive legal victory.

The Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of a group of councils and environmental groups who had argued that the government’s decision to go ahead was invalid because they hadn’t taken proper account of changes in environmental policies.

Supporters of the appeal had gathered outside the court this Thursday morning (27 February) and celebrated when they heard the result.

Those who had brought the appeals included Plane Stupid, Stay Grounded, Grow Heathrow, Hacan, Friends of the Earth, No 3rd Runway Coalition, Greenpeace and Richmond, Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Maidenhead and Windsor councils.

There were three case numbers being decided on with the judge ruling in favour of the applications being brought by Plan B Earth and Friends of the Earth but against the application of the various local councils, Greenpeace & the Mayor of London.

This now calls into question any expansion of Heathrow as the government has confirmed they do not plan to appeal against the ruling. Heathrow has said that they will be appealing.

This now calls into question any expansion of Heathrow as the government has confirmed they do not plan to appeal against the ruling. Heathrow has said that they will be appealing.

However, the judge Lord Justice Lindblom said an expansion has not been ruled out. He said: "Our decision should be properly understood. We have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow.

"We have not found that a national policy statement supporting this project is necessarily incompatible with the UK's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement, or with any other policy the government may adopt or international obligation it may undertake.

"The consequence of our decision is that the government will now have the opportunity to reconsider the NPS in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that parliament has imposed."

Heathrow had been hoping before the ruling to start work as early next year with a possible completion in 2029 but this is unlikely to happen now.

They have issued a statement saying, "We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident we will be successful.

"In the meantime, we are ready to work with the government to fix the issue that the court has raised.

"Heathrow has taken a lead in getting the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to get to net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord."

Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B. Earth, said, “It would have been hard to imagine this outcome even a couple of years ago, but as the scale and impacts of the ecological crisis become clearer, with people dying and being displaced in the UK and around the world, it’s vital we reject the politics of division and unite amidst adversity.

“This is an important moment for all of us, and for our young people in particular. Some sanity is finally prevailing. It’s now clear that our governments can’t keep claiming commitment to the Paris Agreement, while simultaneously taking actions that blatantly contradict it. We welcome the ruling of the Court and we welcome the Government’s acceptance of it. The Government has a crucial responsibility to show real climate leadership ahead of COP26 and this is an important start.”

Reacting to the judgment, Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said, “Clearly the courts have found an irredeemably large hole in the Government’s airports national policy statement which will now have to be withdrawn.

“But this only scratches the surface – the errors of assessment behind the policy are perforated with mistakes on noise, air quality and several other major issues.

“And with both the Committee on Climate Change and economists suggesting that Heathrow expansion would have been an assault on the regions, the project is no longer politically acceptable either.”


March 3, 2020 ( updated)