Campaigners including local councils, environmental groups and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have lost a High Court challenge against the government's approval of plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport. Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth and Plan B were joined by five councils and the Mayor to mount the challenge.
The case was based on an assertion that the UK's Airport National Policy Statement (NPS) had not been compiled correctly as it failed to account fully for the impact of the third runway on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion. The government asserted that the case was premature, and that representations could be made later in the planning process.
Rejecting the case, Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Holgate determined that the hearing that was only concerned with the legality, and not the merits, of the NPS. The decision means that the process of compiling the NPS was undertaken in an appropriate manner and the government will not have to revise it and put it to another vote.
Chris Grayling, the government's Transport Secretary, said: "The expansion of Heathrow is vital and will provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities across the length and breadth of Britain, all at no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations. I now call on all public bodies not to waste any more taxpayers' money or seek to further delay this vital project."
Deputy London mayor for environment and energy Shirley Rodrigues said: "In challenging the decision to expand Heathrow, Sadiq has stood up for Londoners who have serious concerns about the damaging impact it will have. We will now consider the judgement and consult with our co-claimants before deciding our next steps."
Editorial opinion: The first strike goes to Heathrow Airport and the Government, but the court action is just the first skirmish in what will be a long and bitter battle. It would be heartless to not be concerned about the quality of life experience by those living around an expanded Heathrow Airport. However, a lot of those same people enjoy a good standard of living thanks to the airport and the prosperity it brings to the area. Aviation continues to grow and as the UK makes its way alone on the world stage reliable air transport links will become ever more important. Yes, there are other airports in the south of England and a few still have capacity available but they are not what the market needs or most travellers want.
Airlines and airports have cleaned up their acts a lot over the last two decades and will continue to do so. The issue is now as much about surface access as it is about aircraft, and steps must be taken to address the former as aviation is ahead of the game right now. It is important to continue to monitor and mitigate the noise, pollution and climate concerns. But it is also incumbent on the UK to let Heathrow get on with developing its plans. Sadly, campaigners will try to put many more road blocks in the way.
Text © The Aviation Oracle