Court rules Government policy on 3rd Runway illegal

28/2/20

The Court of Appeal  ruled that the Government’s policy on a third runway at Heathrow was illegal. It found that the Department for Transport should have taken the climate change implications of the Paris Agreement into account when drawing up the National Policy Statement which outlined its plans for a third runway. The court invited the Government to review the climate section of the National Policy Statement.

What the court ruling means

(This is a longer piece than we normally put up but we feel the potential importance of the decision justifies it – if you want to send this story as a link, use https://hacan.org.uk/?p=5971 )

The National Policy Statement on Airports (NPS), drawn up by the Department for Transport, put forward the case for a third runway at Heathrow.

In June 2018 the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted in favour of the NPS by 415 votes to 119.

That gave Heathrow the green light to draw up detailed plans for the new runway.  Those plans would need to be put to be put to a Public Inquiry but the principle of a third runway had been agreed by Parliament.

What the Court of Appeal found was that the NPS was unlawful because it had not taken into consideration the Paris Agreement and the commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Here is the key paragraph of the judgement:

” 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 United Kingdom’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 ANPS in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that Parliament has imposed (paragraph 285).”

The Court has not said there will be no third runway but is inviting the Government to reconsider and amend what the NPS about the third runway in order to take account of the Paris Agreement.

In normal circumstances that it what a Government would do so that the project would be delayed rather than abandoned.  But it is widely assumed that the Prime Minister Boris Johnston, a long-standing opponent of Heathrow, will amend the NPS to kill off a third runway. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in a statement to Parliament yesterday, said: “The court’s judgment is complex and requires careful consideration. We will set out our next steps in due course”.

The NPS, for example, could be amended to allow expansion at other airports instead of the third runway at Heathrow.  That is what Grant Shapps hinted at in his statement.

“We fully recognise the importance of the aviation sector for the whole of the UK economy. The UK’s airports support connections to over 370 overseas destinations in more than 100 countries facilitating trade, investment and tourism. It facilitates £95.2 billion of UK’s non-EU trade exports; contributes at least £14 billion directly to GDP; supports over half a million jobs and underpins the competitiveness and global reach of our national and our regional economies. Under our wider “making best use” policy, airports across the UK are already coming forward with ambitious proposals to invest in their infrastructure”.

The Government has said that it will not appeal to the Supreme Court to get yesterday’s decision overturned.

Heathrow will appeal to the Supreme Court but might struggle to overturn yesterday’s decision without Government backing.

It is expected that Heathrow will continue to draw up, and consult on, its detailed plans for a third runway while the appeal is being taken to the Supreme Court.

Except for the ruling on climate change, the Court found all other aspects of the NPS – on noise, air pollution etc – were lawful.

Appeal Court’s summary of its Judgement:  https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Heathrow-summary-of-judgments-26-February-2020-online-version.pdf

Full Judgement:-  https://www.judiciary.uk/judgments/r-friends-of-the-earth-v-secretary-of-state-for-transport-and-others/

What will the Government do if it drops a third runway? It is clear from Shapps statement to Parliament that it will encourage expansion to take place at other airports.  I suspect, too, that Heathrow will come back with plans to increase the number of flights using the airport by abandoning/reducing the half day’s runway alternation enjoyed by communities in West London.  There might also be a push from the airlines for more night flights.

The re-organisation of Heathrow’s flight paths will continue as it has been driven by new technology not by the third runway.

The ruling could have implications for other large projects.  The Court has ruled that projects must be assessed to ensure they adhere to the Paris Agreement and ate compatible with achieving a zero-carbon target by 2050. There are being questions raised today over the Government’s £28bn road building programme.   And, although the Paris Agreement regulations are carried out on a national basis, other countries will be looking with interest at this judgement. 

Third Runway Related Reports and Briefings

These briefings were written over the last few years. Some of have aged a little but we have left them up as the question of a 3rd runway is not yet settled.

What a 3rd runway will cost the taxpayer: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Briefing-What-a-third-runway-at-Heathrow-will-cost-the-taxpayer.pdf (pdf)

Just how many new destinations will a 3rd runway serve? http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Briefing-Just-how-much-new-connectivity-will-a-third-runway-at-Heathrow-really-provide.pdf (pdf)

Will a 3rd runway ever be built or will we just waste another 10 years?  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Briefing-Another-10-wasted-years.pdf (pdf)

Can a three runway Heathrow, with 700 more planes a day, be quieter than the airport is today?  Check out the HACAN blog: http://hacan.org.uk/blog/?p=542

Why a 3rd runway is undeliverable

7 easy-to-read briefing sheets spelling out the 7 reasons why a 3rd runway cannot be delivered

7 pages Briefing sheets

READ: 20 Things To Know About A 3rd Runway

Download our Briefings in PDF format: Third Runway timelineThird Runway at Heathrow FAQ

Our Flickr page has great photos of pictures of campaigning  events – check it out to see the range of protests that have been taking place 

MAJOR REPORT FROM CAA

Major new departures report from CAA

The Civil Aviation Authority published a major report on 27th July into departures from Heathrow Airport.  It was largely done in response to complaints from local people than aircraft have become louder and lower.

The report is packed with other useful information but note it concentrates on heights and noise.  It doesn’t deal in any depth with other causes of noise such as increased concentration or a rise in flight numbers.

Read HACAN’s assessment of the report:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Blog-CAA-Report-1.pdf

Read the summary:   https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/20180719%20CAP1691a%20Departure%20Noise%20Mitigation%20Summary%20Report.pdf

Full report:  https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP1691%20Departure%20Noise%20Mitigation%20Main%20Report.pdf

RESPITE REPORT PUBLISHED

 Respite Report launched

Heathrow published its long-awaited respite report commissioned from Anderson Acoustics on 16th February 2017.  It is the first of its kind to be done.  HACAN was part of the steering group.  Summary video: https://youtu.be/7Z5mt7rKJgA .

Where to find the reports: https://www.heathrow.com/noise/making-heathrow-quieter/respite-research

Most people favour respite

Heathrow’s consultation on the principles it should use in designing its new flight paths showed most people backed respite.  54% wanted the priority to be respite even if that increased the total number overflown; 25% wanted the priority to be to prevent new areas being overflown (that included most respondents not currently overflown); any only 22% backed minimising the total number overflown by concentrating all the flights over certain areas.  (Some backed more than one option which is why the don;t add up to 100%).

You can reading about further findings here:   https://files.acrobat.com/a/preview/95fcb6e4-d297-4678-9a08-3a819f0529d9

Aircraft noise and health – some studies

 

 

New World Health Organisation Guidelines (2018) tougher on aircraft noise

The new noise guidelines from the World Health Organisation, published 10th October 2018, are tougher on aircraft noise than previously.

Recommended Limits

Road                            53Lden                        45Lnight

 Rail                              54Lden                        44Lnight

 Aircraft                      45Len                          40Lnight

 Wind Turbines      45Lden         no recommendation

Our view this a strong message to Heathrow as it develops its new flight paths that aircraft noise problems are not confined to areas close to the airport.  The guidelines indicate that aircraft noise can affect the health of people living well over 20 miles from Heathrow.  They are of course just guidelines, not intended to be implemented overnight, whose main purpose is to indicate the levels at which noise can become a health problem.

For more details, see the HACAN press release:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WHO-new-noise-guidelines-Press-Release-1.pdf 

WHOreport: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/383921/noise-guidelines-eng.pdf?ua=1

HACAN’s plain person’s guide to the WHO report: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Plain-Persons-Guide-to-WHO-report-1.pdf

A good overview of noise and health research:   Aircraft Noise and Public Health the evidence is loud and clear final reportONLINE

 And here is the summary: AEF_aircraft noise and health_FINAL3

HYENA-study-712 – this study by Imperial College assed the impact of night flights on the health of people living around a number of European airports, including Heathrow

http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5432:  A study of aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease near Heathrow airport finds the risk of heart problems are much higher for people living under noisy flight paths

Night Noise Guidelines for Europe:  Produced by the World Health Organisation in 2009.  These have been updated in 2018 – see above.

Night noise factsheet

 

The levels when people get annoyed by noise

SONA, a study the Government commissioned from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014, SONA found that people start to get annoyed by aircraft noise at lower levels than previously officially recognised.  This is reflected now in Government policy which acknowledges that people can get annoyed by aircraft noise when it averages out over a 16 hour day at 54 or 51 decibels.  Previously government argued it was 57 decibels. Some people get annoyed at even lower levels. The World Health Organisation report, published in October 2018, argues for the lower levels:
https://hacan.org.uk/?p=4307

The chart above, taken from the study, compares the results of the Government sponsored 1982 ANIS Study with the new SONA study.  SONA found  9% of people are highly annoyed when the average is 54 decibels.  In geographical terms around Heathrow that goes as far as about Clapham to the east and about 16 miles to the west: about 65,000 people in total.  The lower average of 51% extends about as far as Peckham.

The full study  http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP%201506%20FEB17.pdf

Briefing on Night Flight Consultation

No change proposed for night flight regime at Heathrow

The Government is proposing no change to the number of night flights at Heathrow.  The consultation document, released on 12/1/17 by the Department for Transport, argues that the current regime should continue for the next five years.  It will then be clearer whether a third runway will be underway.  Permission to build a third runway is expected to be conditional on a tougher night flight regime being introduced when it opens.

At present an average of 16 flights each night are allowed to land at Heathrow between 11.30pm and 6am.  There are no scheduled departures during this period.  The first flight lands at 4.30am.

The deadline for responding to the consultation is 28th February.

The consultation is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/night-flight-restrictions-at-gatwick-heathrow-and-stansted

A HACAN Briefing on the consultation is available at  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Night-Flight-Consultation-2017-HACAN-Briefing-2.pdf

To read the HACAN Briefing if you want to just do a quick response: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Consultations-at-a-glance.pdf

Briefing on Airspace Policy Consultation

Consultation on Airspace Policy Launched

This is a hugely important national document which was launched on 2nd February, the same day as the National Policy Statement.  The two consultations run in parallel.  It covers key topics like airspace changes; respite; new metrics for measuring noise annoyance; and the setting up of an Independent Noise Authority.

In HACAN’s view this document contains a lot of positive proposals. Read our briefing: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Airspace-Policy-Consultation-Briefing.pdf

To read the HACAN Briefing if you want to just do a quick response: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Consultations-at-a-glance.pdf