29th April 2015 for immediate use
Landmark air pollution ruling could impact 3rd run way at Heathrow
A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court handed down this morning could have implications for a third runway at Heathrow. In a unanimous verdict, five judges ordered the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to consult on strict new air pollution plans that must be submitted to the European Commission no later than 31 December 2015. The plans require the Government crack down on the UK’s high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. Lord Carnwath said the court was “in no doubt about the seriousness” of the UK’s breach of EU law in failing to meet legal pollution limits, which leaves it open to the risk of European Commission fines totalling £300m. The EU Air Quality Directive demanded the UK brought pollution down to legal limits by 2010 or apply for an extension by 2015. But the government in 2011 said that a number of areas, including London, would be unable to comply by 2015 and instead argued the law allowed it to comply “as soon as possible”.
The judgment marks a victory for the campaigning legal firm ClientEarth which had sued the Government over its lack of action.
The judgment could also have implications for a third runway at Heathrow. Areas around the airport continue to be stubbornly above the EU legal limits. It is down to a combination of pollution from the planes and the huge amount of traffic on the M4 and M25. It is the only airport in the UK where the EU limits are breached or are likely to be so in the future.
John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, which campaigns against a third runway, said, “This is a potential show-stopper as far as a third runway is concerned. It is difficult to see how any Government will get away with backing a new runway at Heathrow when the plans it is now required to draw up urgently to present to the EU say it must come up with a coherent plan to cut air pollution.
For more information:
John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650