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. 

Details of Aviation Green Paper Consultation, now closed – includes HACAN response

The Government published its Green Paper with proposals for its new aviation strategy at the end of last year which it will finalise and release in the second half of 2019.  The consultation ended on 20th June 2019.

Read HACAN’s response:  HACAN Consultation Response

Read the response of HACAN East: Aviation Green Paper HACAN East response

For more details of the consultation, plus HACAN’s briefing on it: https://hacan.org.uk/?p=5068

Noise Relief: major new report from HACAN

HACAN released a report challenging the aviation industry to take action to improve the noise climate for local communities. Noise Relief outlines practical measures which could be taken to achieve this.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN and co-author of the report, said, “Heathrow is drawing up plans for the biggest shake up of its flight paths since the airport opened in 1946. HACAN welcomes many of these plans, particularly those which will bring some respite each day to the many areas which are currently flown over all day long.   But these new flight paths will not be in place for several years yet. Our report suggests measures which can be taken in the interim.”

The report advocates four measures be taken to assist residents:

  • Stagger the point at which planes join their final approach path: at present 95% of planes now join within a narrow 4.8 nautical mile band;
  • Increase variation in departure routes: over the last ten years or so aircraft taking off from Heathrow have increasingly been concentrated along narrow flight paths;
  • Promote fairer night flight arrival distribution: night flights appear to vary their routes less than they did in the past;
  • Reduce simultaneous overflight by both Heathrow and London City arrivals:   there are days when parts of SE London are overflown by both Heathrow and London City aircraft, giving them at times over 50 planes an hour.

HACAN will now be lobby the industry for action on these measures

To read the full report: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NoiseRelief.pdf

Heathrow Noise Action Plan Published

Each airport with over 50,000 movements is required by the European Union to publish a Noise Action Plan every 5 years. Heathrow has just published it latest one covering the years 2019 – 2023. It only focuses on a two-runway Heathrow since, if a third runway gets permission, it will not be up and running until about 2025/6. UK airports will not be required to produce Noise Action Plans if the UK leaves the EU but the Government is considering replacing them with Noise Reduction Plans: https://www.heathrow.com/noise/making-heathrow-quieter/noise-action-plan

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 new departures report from the CAA, plus HACAN’s assessment of it

Major new departures report from CAA

27th July 2018

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.

Key findings:

  • ‘A gradual decrease in average aircraft heights over recent years’ but ‘lower heights have not lead to overall noise increases’ because most planes have become quieter.
  • The take-off procedures can vary from airport to airport but the noise on the ground from aircraft departing Heathrow differs little from that at comparable airports
  • The rate of climb of the A380s is much the same as at other airports.
  • If planes use a steeper departure procedure a). they reduce the noise for people right under the flight path but increase for those to the side but b) they increase the duration of the noise for everybody.

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

Heathrow Flight Path Consultation: January to March 2019: Details on consultation and responses

Major Heathrow consultation launched in January

8th January 2019

Heathrow Airport launched a major public consultation today.  It runs for 12 weeks until 4th March.

Key Points:

Runway alternation in West London will be cut from half a day to a third of the day to allow for alternation on a third runway if it is built.  The consultation is asking for views on how this should be implemented.

Significant changes to airspace are proposed to allow for vast swathes of London and the Home Counties, which currently get all-day flying, to get respite from the noise for the first time.  It applies to both arrivals and departures.

HACAN has released its response to the consultation.  Please feel free to use it to inform your own response should you wish.  It can be found at:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/HACAN-response-to-Heathrow-Consultation-1.pdf

And here is the response of our sister organisation HACAN East: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Heathrow-Consultation-response-from-HACAN-East-1.pdf

For a 2 page summary of the runway alternation and respite proposals click: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-Consultation-briefing-arrivals-runway-alternation-and-respite-1-1.pdf 

For a 1 page summary on the departure proposals click:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-Consultation-briefing-departures-1-1.pdf

The night period when there are no scheduled flights allowed will be extended from 5 hours to six and a half hours.  Views are sought on how this should operate.

For a 1 page summary of the night flight proposals click:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-Consultation-briefing-night-flights-1.pdf

Views are sought on whether ‘westerly preference’ should remain – this is where planes continue to fly as if a west wind is blowing when there is an east wind (of up to 5 knots)

For a 1 page summary on the westerly preference proposals click: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-consultation-briefing-westerly-preference-1.pdf

Heathrow is proposing to bring in 25,000 extra flights a year in the years running up to the opening of any third runway.  Some of these flights will use new dedicated flight paths called Independent Parallel Approaches.

For a 2 page summary of Independent Parallel Approaches click:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Independent-Parallel-Approach-briefing-1.pdf

The full Heathrow document is here: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-Airspace-and-Future-Operations-Consultation-document-Final-low-res-1.pdf

Here’s a link to where and when the Heathrow consultation exhibitions will take place: http://afo.heathrowconsultation.com 

Here’s a powerpoint we have put together highlighting how different areas could be affected by the consultation proposals:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Heathrow-Airspace-Consultation-1.pdf