Court rules Government policy on 3rd Runway illegal


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 )

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:

Full Judgement:-

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. 

General Election: the constituencies impacted by proposed London City Expansion

At least 25 constituencies will be affected. We detail how:


Bermondsey and Old Southwark:

Bethnal Green & Bow:

Camberwell & Peckham:

Chingford & Woodford Green:


Dagenham & Rainham:


Dulwich & West Norwood:


East Ham:


Erith and Thamesmead:


Greenwich and Woolwich:

Hornchurch and Upminster:

Ilford North:

Ilford South:

Lewisham Deptford:

Lewisham East:

Lewisham West and Penge:

Old Bexley and Sidcup:

Poplar & Limehouse:





Wanstead & Leyton:


West Ham:

Record number of local councils oppose London City expansion proposals


The London City consultation closed yesterday. A record number of local authorities have objected to the expansion proposals in London City’s Master Plan. Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Havering and Lewisham have objected.  Never before has London City faced this level of opposition. The London Assembly has also objected.  We have not yet seen the responses from the Mayor of London or from Bexley, Greenwich or Barking and Dagenham.  We will put them up when we know them.

A final Master Plan is expected late 2019/early 2020, with a planning application on the proposals it wants to take forward submitted in Spring 2020.

For more details on the vibrant campaign against the expansion plans visit the site of our sister organisation HACAN East: 

Committee on Climate Change: UK growth needs to almost halve


The Committee on Climate Change(CCC), the Government’s official advisers, has said in a report out today that growth at UK airports needs to be almost half the predicted levels if aviation is to meet the government’s target of aviation being net-zero carbon by 2050.

The CCC, chaired by former Conservation minister Lord Deben, said, “In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term. Our scenario reflects a 25% growth in demand by 2050 compared to 2018 levels. This compares to current Government projections which are for up to a 49% increase in demand over the same period.”

It says that, if the growth currently planned for London’s airports went ahead, that would leave ‘at most very limited room for growth at non-London airports’.

The report explained, “The Government should assess its airport capacity strategy in the context of net zero. Specifically, investments will need to be demonstrated to make economic sense in a net-zero world and the transition towards it. Current planned additional airport capacity in London, including the third runway at Heathrow, is likely to leave at most very limited room for growth at non-London airports”.

The CCC suggests a number of measures to manage demand.

see full report

see HACAN press release:

see HACAN article on why electric planes may do little for noise: electric planes

London City’s new planes much less quiet than claimed

Evidence has emerged that the new quieter planes which London City is relying on to manage future noise levels if its controversial expansion plans go through are much less quiet in reality than it has forecast.

The evidence is in a study which London City commissioned but which it has not yet published:

Here is the link to the press release our sister organisation HACAN East has released:

Residents dismayed by London City plans to double flights

Residents are dismayed by the London City expansion revealed in its Master Plan published today.  The airport wants to lift the current cap of 111,000 flights allowed each year to 137,000 by 2030 and to 151,000 by 2035. Last year there were just over 75,000 flights.

 The airport also wants to get rid of the ban on flights between 12.30pm Saturday and 12,30pm on Sunday.  Additionally it is proposing that more flights are allowed to operate in the early morning and late evening.

 John Stewart, chair of HACAN East, which gives a voice to residents under the airport’s flight paths, said, “For all its green talk, this plan would be disastrous for residents.  Flight numbers could double from today’s levels.  And, to rub in the pain, the airport is looking to ease the restrictions at weekends and in the early morning and late evening.”

 The consultation ruins from 28th June to 20th September.

 London City would need to go to a Planning Inquiry to get permission for any proposals it intends to take forward.

Summary in HACAN East Newsletter

Our sister organisation HACAN East has produced a 3 page briefing to help people who want to respond to the consultation: briefing

HACAN East has also produced FREEPOST postcards which you can download and send to the airport if you object to the expansion proposals: postcard  or this one: postcard two 

Black and white versions black and white postcard or this one black and white postcard two

And here are posters to download and display: poster

And black and white version: poster black and white

Read our look at why London City is going for this expansion, plus an assessment of its strategy and whether it will succeed: article

Read draft Master Plan Summary: 

Read London City Press Release

For full details of the consultation:

 The full consultation document: London City softening us up for expansion:  Read the HACAN East blog: click here

Breaking News:  16/08/19:  Campaigners have welcomed today’s call by Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz for London City to halt its consultation on expanding the airport until it provides more detail on how it plans to tackle noise and climate emissions.In a letter to City Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair the mayor called the consultation “fundmentally flawed.”

“The significance of this move by the mayor cannot be overstated.  Newham is the planning authority for the airport.  This letter throws down the gauntlet to the airport to come up with a Master Plan that works for residents and for the climate.”

Read the HACAN East press release: press release 

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:

Committee on Climate Change new report launched

2nd May 2019

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the Government’s official advisers, published its latest report today. It is recommending that the UK becomes ‘net-zero’ on CO 2 emissions by 2050. This does not there will be no CO2 emissions but those which are emitted will need to be balanced by taking carbon out of the air or burying it:  ” The CCC target is for “net zero” because some activities, such as flying and farming, will unavoidably produce some emissions in 2050. But these will be balanced by taking carbon out of the air by growing trees or burying CO2 under the ground ” .

The report goes on to suggest on aviation: “Air travel will become more expensive because of the slow development of alternatives to polluting kerosene to power planes. Air passengers may be required to pay to offset the costs of their emissions from 2035. The cost of doing so could reach £55 by 2050 for an economy flight to New York and £25 to Malaga. The report encourages frequent flyers — the 15 per cent of people responsible for 70 per cent of flights — to catch trains and cut down on long-haul travel”.

Read the report:

Read the HACAN summary of the aviation section:

Campaigners lose court case

1st May 2019

The High Court today announced that it ruled against the local authorities and campaign groups who had brought Judicial Reviews against the Government’s decision last year to give Heathrow permission to draw up plans for a third runway.  The objectors have decided to  appeal seek leave to appeal the decision.  Read the full judgement.