Updated with reaction: High Court rejects Heathrow third runway challenge

A High Court challenge has been lost by campaigners fighting against the government’s decision to approve plans for a £14 billion third runway at Heathrow.

Five councils, residents, environmental charities and the mayor of London brought the action after MPs backed the plans last year.

The campaigners said the runway would effectively create a “new airport”, having a “severe” impact on Londoners.

But lawyers representing the government said the case was “unarguable”.

The case was brought against transport secretary Chris Grayling by local authorities and residents in London affected by the expansion and charities including Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth and Plan B.

They argued that the government’s National Policy Statement, setting out its support for the project, failed to account fully for the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

But lawyers representing Grayling said the claimants’ case was “premature”, as they would have the opportunity to make representations at a later stage in the planning process.

The ruling means the government will not have to devise a new NPS and put it to another vote in Parliament.

Commenting on the High Court ruling on the expansion judicial review claims, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are delighted with today’s ruling which is a further demonstration that the debate on Heathrow expansion has been had and won, not only in Parliament, but in the courts also.

“We are getting on with delivering the once-in-a-generation project that will connect Britain to global growth, providing thousands of new jobs and an economic boost for this country and its future generations.”

But John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, told the BBC: “This verdict will not reduce the impact on local communities from increased noise and air pollution, nor will it resolve Heathrow Ltd’s financial difficulties or the economic weakness in their expansion plans.

“But our main concern is allowing Heathrow, the UK’s biggest carbon emitter, to expand in the middle of a climate emergency.”

Outlining the case on behalf of campaigners, Nigel Pleming QC had said the plans could see the number of passengers using the airport rise to an estimated 132 million – an increase of 60%.

A spokesman for the alternative Heathrow Hub extended runway scheme said: “We will review the judgement and consider our options going forward.

“The Heathrow Hub consortium continues to believe that its proposal is cheaper, quicker to build and quieter than Heathrow airport’s third runway.

“An extended runway is the most innovative option for airport expansion not just at Heathrow, but at other international airports as they seek to increase capacity.” 

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Following today’s outcome, it is important that urgent progress is now made on delivering the additional capacity that the UK economy urgently requires.

“Forecasts show our airports are quickly reaching capacity, especially at Heathrow – the UK’s main international gateway. Additional airport capacity in the south-east is vital to the UK’s future economic prospects and enhancing our global competitiveness, and all the more important following the decision to leave the EU.

“Abta supports expansion, but we are clear that full consideration must be given to the environmental impact on local communities. This is why we supported the government’s commitment to deliver expansion at Heathrow within legal air quality requirements, as well as the inclusion of a package of mitigating measures.

“Abta believes it is vital for Heathrow and airlines to continue to work with local communities, and we support the establishment of the Heathrow Community Engagement Board, which will ensure Heathrow engages with local residents and stakeholders throughout the planning process and construction phase.

“We also welcome the establishment of the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise to produce guidance on the process for taking future airspace change decisions.”

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