Court grants Heathrow leave to appeal on third runway


7/05/20 for immediate use

Campaign group HACAN, which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, has said that today’s judgement (1), to grant Heathrow leave to appeal does not mean a third runway is back on track.

Heathrow was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in its bid to overturn the verdict of the Court of Appeal, delivered in February, that the Government had failed to take account of the Paris Agreement on climate change in making its decision to allow Heathrow to start drawing up detailed plans for a third runway (1).

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “Today’s ruling was much as expected.  The surprise would have been if an appeal on an issue as big as this had not been allowed.  What it does not mean is that the third runway is back on track.  Heathrow remains very much on its own as the Government is not backing its appeal.”

Stewart added the post-virus situation adds to the unlikelihood of a third runway ever being built: “There is real uncertainty about future demand as the country emerges from lockdown.  Investors will want to make sure they will get a real return on their money before agreeing to the £14 billion needed for a third runway which could easily rise by the time it goes ahead.”

The court did not give a date when the appeal would be heard

The Government has said it will abide by the decision on the Supreme Court.  If Heathrow wins it will be able to resume drawing up its plans for a third runway to be presented to a Public Inquiry,

probably within the next two years.  The Government, though, would have the final say as it would need to endorse or overrule the recommendation of the planning inspectors.


Notes for editors


(2). On 28th February 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 (NPS).  The 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.

The Court did not rule against a third runway and invited 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.  The Government decided not to appeal.

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650 

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