Court of Appeal rules Heathrow expansion plans unlawful

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Heathrow’s plans to build a third runway have been thrown into disarray after a court ruled in favour of climate campaigners seeking to stop the airport’s expansion.

The Court of Appeal ruled today (February 27) that Heathrow’s expansion plans, which included the construction of a new, third runway, were not in accordance with UK policy. It said that the government, which had originally backed expansion, had a duty to take into account the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming.

Heathrow said that they would challenge today’s decision but the government has said that it would not appeal the ruling. However, it is not all bad news for Heathrow as the judges also stated that expansion could still go ahead in the future as long as the plans are compliant with UK climate policy.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The Court of Appeal dismissed all appeals against the government – including on “noise” and “air quality” – apart from one which is eminently fixable.  We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are 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. 

“Heathrow has taken a lead in getting the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to get to Net Zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord. 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. Let’s get Heathrow done.”

Jenny Bates, a climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, one of the groups that brought the case, said: “The UK government must take this ruling as an opportunity to play its full part in fixing the international climate crisis, especially in the year that it hosts crucial climate talks in Glasgow. This means finally moving on from the climate-wrecking Heathrow third runway project and ensuring the UK aviation sector actually cuts its climate emissions, rather than adding to them.

“The Court has specifically recognised how the climate crisis needs to be at the heart of major infrastructure decisions. It’s time that the government catches up with this fact and stops pursuing its outdated climate-wrecking transport projects, such as major new roads and airport expansion at Heathrow or elsewhere, and instead gives us the clean transport network we need.”

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