Heathrow Airport: Third runway plan faces court action
Net zero goal makes case against Heathrow expansion far stronger, campaigners claim
Opponents of Heathrow Airport expansion will make their case against the Department for Transport at the Court of Appeal today.
The court will hear an appeal against the High Court’s decision in May, which ruled the government had not breached its sustainable development obligation by allowing the expansion of Heathrow.
Legal challenges had been brought by a number of campaign groups and local councils, which were heard collectively by the court in March 2019.
Friends of the Earth (FoE), represented by law firm Leigh Day, will be the first of four appellants to present their case today. The climate NGO argues the Department for Transport (DfT) did not consider the Paris Agreement when approving a third runway at Heathrow, and that it failed to factor in the non-CO2 contribution of aviation to climate breakdown when assessing the impacts of the expansion.
A third runway at the airport would increase the number of flights each day from the airport by 50 per cent, amounting to an extra 700 flights a day. Friends of the Earth argue this would all but blow chances of the UK meeting its targets for cutting emissions and fighting climate breakdown.
Rowan Smith, solicitor in the environmental law team at law firm Leigh Day, said the case against DfT had grown stronger since it was last heard in March because the government has since adopted a legally binding net zero emissions target.
“The government has legislated for net zero carbon emissions under the Climate Change Act, which our client believes would have almost no chance of being met if the expansion of Heathrow was to go ahead,”he said. “It also gives further weight to our client’s arguments that the expansion goes against the government’s own climate change goals.”
In September the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that aviation is set to be the UK’s biggest source of carbon emissions by 2050. Expanding Heathrow would leave “at most very limited room for growth” at non-London airports, it said.
Heathrow Airport insisted its plans for a third runway remain “on track” and that it will support DfT through the court case. “Judicial reviews are common in infrastructure projects of this size,” a spokesperson said. “Our plans remain on-track and we will support the Department for Transport throughout this process.”
The airport said it was “totally confident” in DfT’s process in approving the expansion, including the evidence gathered by the independent Airports Commission, multiple rounds of public consultation and cross-party support in Parliament.
The Department for Transport was approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.
Cases are also being brought by local authorities, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace, Plan B Earth and Heathrow Hub. The hearing is expected to last six days and will be live streamed here.