Heathrow expansion ruled unlawful by Court of Appeal

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Heathrow Airport’s controversial plans to build a third runway have been thrown into doubt after a court ruling.

The government’s Heathrow’s expansion decision was unlawful because it did not take climate commitments into account, the Court of Appeal said.

Heathrow said it would challenge the decision, but the government said it would not appeal.

The judges said that in future, a third runway could go ahead, as long as it fits with the UK’s climate policy.

The case was brought by environmental groups, councils and the Mayor of London.

There were “whoops and jumps of jubilation from environmentalists outside the court room” after the judgement, BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin reported.

Transport Secretary Grant Schapps tweeted that the government would not appeal against the ruling.


Heathrow said it would challenge the court’s decision at the Supreme Court, saying it was “confident that we will be successful”.

“In the meantime, we are ready to work with the government to fix the issue that the court has raised,” a Heathrow spokesperson said.

“Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of global Britain. We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future.”

Friends of the Earth, one of the environmental groups that brought the case, said the ruling was “an absolutely ground-breaking result for climate justice”.

Will Rundle, head of legal at the campaign group, said: “This judgment has exciting wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions.

“It’s time for developers and public authorities to be held to account when it comes to the climate impact of their damaging developments.”

Greenpeace said the government needed to “permanently ground Heathrow’s expansion plans”.

Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said: “The third runway is already on its knees over costs, noise, air pollution, habitat loss and lack of access, and now Heathrow has yet another impossibly high hurdle to clear.

“Boris Johnson should now put Heathrow out of its misery and cancel the third runway once and for all. No ifs, no buts, no lies, no U-turns.”

The Court of Appeal found that the government had not followed UK policy when backing the controversial expansion plans.

It said that the government had a duty to take into account the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming.

It was “legally fatal” to the government’s Heathrow expansion policy that it did not take those climate commitments into account, the judges said.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said business communities in the UK would be “bitterly disappointed that plans for a world-leading hub airport are now at risk”.

“Without expansion, firms risk losing crucial regional connectivity and access to key markets across the world,” said BCC director general Adam Marshall.

But airline group IAG, which owns British Airways, said: “We have always said the environmental impact and cost of Heathrow expansion needs independent review. The airport cannot be trusted. Its original £14bn cost for expansion is now £32bn.”