Heathrow judgment reaction: 'Decision drives bulldozer through expansion plans'

Reaction has been coming in to this morning's Court of Appeal ruling against the government's Airports National Policy Statement, with one commentator saying the judgement "drives a bulldozer" through Heathrow's long-delayed expansion plans.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

The Appeal Court this morning ruled that the government's Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) favouring a third runway at Heathrow was unlawful - because the UK's obligations to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement were not taken into account when the document was drawn up.

Angus Walker, infrastructure planning partner at law firm BDB Pitmans, said: "The challengers’ success drives a bulldozer through Heathrow’s ambitions to expand that the Prime Minister is unlikely to lie down in front of. The government has said it will not appeal to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, given its diffidence towards Heathrow expansion, although Heathrow Airport Ltd has vowed to do so."

Al Watson, partner and head of planning and environment at law firm Taylor Wessing, said: "In my view, this was perhaps to be expected. Delivery of a major project is all about timing, and there have been too many conflicting factors in play during this policy planning process. Amidst the timing of the previous government's decision to go for carbon neutral in the economy by 2050, combined with the new Conservative government with a Prime Minister and his long history of opposing Heathrow, the emerging science on climate crisis [and] the timing for promoting and obtaining consent, delivering a third runway at Heathrow may well have gone, and forever."

"We've been here before. Back in 2003 right through to 2010, then again from 2016 through until 2020. [the Heathrow third runway] has had a policy of support. But government policy does not build anything; project teams and infrastructure kit does."

"So what now? The other airports in the London airport system need to understand how their expansion plans need to take up demand that cannot be met entirely at Heathrow. The government now needs to take its own advice on what to do next. Does it go to the Supreme Court or to the PM to shrug his shoulders and tacitly accept the defeat he appears to have wanted."

Caroline Russell, Green Party chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, said: "The London Assembly has spent many years investigating Heathrow Airport’s expansion plans, hearing from residents, climate experts, academics and we’re all on the same page; Heathrow Airport’s expansion plans should not go ahead. We’ve been very vocal in our opposition to a third runway at Heathrow Airport. From all sides of the political spectrum, this is an issue that we are utterly united on.

"Today’s ruling has been a long time coming and finally, we’re starting to see common sense prevail so that the climate and Londoners’ wellbeing are put ahead of the interests of the airline industry. The Assembly will continue to voice its opposition to any expansion at Heathrow Airport until all plans are off the table."

Labour’s London Assembly transport spokesperson, Navin Shah AM, said: "In the midst of a climate emergency, it would have been nonsensical to proceed with plans to build a third runway. This would have grossly exacerbated air and noise pollution in the capital, setting back the significant progress that City Hall has made on tackling these issues.

"This a huge victory for Londoners, brought about the tenacious opposition of the Mayor, the London Assembly, local authorities and campaign groups. It is vital that the government reminds itself again of the commitments it signed up to in the Paris climate agreement and swiftly throws its plans for Heathrow onto the scrapheap".

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