News

Court of Appeal judges pause Heathrow expansion on climate change grounds

By on
18

Government must now formally reconsider third runway, this time factoring in the Paris climate agreement

The decision to add a third runway to Heathrow airport was made unlawfully, the Court of Appeal decided this morning.

In a boost to Boris Johnson, whose constituency is near the airport, the court found that a failure to factor in the Paris climate change agreement was “legally fatal” to the decision.

While this doesn’t mean that the project is inherently illegal and can never go ahead, the government will now have to “reconsider” — this time with its climate change policies fully in mind.

The decision comes as part of marathon, QC-laden litigation over various aspects of Heathrow expansion. The Court of Appeal found in favour of several environmental charities in the climate change argument, partly reversing a High Court decision saying that expansion was lawful all round.

Giving judgment today, the three-judge panel emphasised that “we are not concerned in these proceedings with the political debate and controversy to which the prospect of a third runway being constructed at Heathrow has given rise. That is none of the court’s business”.

“The basic question before us”, the judges added, “is an entirely legal question”.

The legal answer was that the decision to go ahead with the third runway was made unlawfully. The government will have to have another go at it, this time taking into account its climate change policies as required by planning legislation.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

The court granted a declaration to Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth that the transport secretary “acted unlawfully in failing to take into account the Paris Agreement on Climate Change when deciding to designate the Airports National Policy Statement in support of the expansion of Heathrow Airport”.

When the government creates policy statements such as the one authorising the third runway, section 5(8) of the Planning Act 2008 requires it to “include an explanation of how the policy set out in the statement takes account of Government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change”.

That didn’t happen — apparently because the government’s legal advice was the complete opposite. Some unfortunate lawyer, somewhere along the line, advised that ministers should actively avoid taking the Paris agreement into account.

The Court of Appeal described this as a “clear misdirection of law”.

In a second part of the declaration, it explained that “The Airport National Policy Statement is of no legal effect unless and until the Secretary of State has undertaken a review of it in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Planning Act 2008”.

Lord Justices Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave said that their judgment didn’t mean that there could never be a third runway at Heathrow. Instead, the result means that “the government will now have the opportunity to reconsider… in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that parliament has imposed”.

The government has not asked for permission to appeal. Heathrow expansion has been a political problem for West London MP Boris Johnson in particular, who once pledged to “lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that third runway”.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

18 Comments

Avioficionado

The obvious solution always was to propose and build a second runway at Gatwick Airport. A third runway at LHR was a stupid idea to start with.

(7)(6)

Scep Tick

Gatwick is useless for most of the country. Much better to do it in Birmingham and link to HS2.

Incidentally. Courts seemed to be proud over Brexit of giving power to Parliament. Now they’re proud of taking power away from Parliament. Dangerous precedent.

(3)(6)

Earl Wombleby of Chelsea Barracks

Birmingham has an airport? Extraordinary.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

It has a university too apparently. I learned that the other day on this site.

(3)(1)

Lord Cockburn of Knightsbridge

I met an individual from Birmingham for the first time the other day. He was sooty and Pygmy-looking, with few teeth and little hair on his shrunken head.

A pungent, utterly repugnant odour lingered for quite some time in the entrance foyer of my residence after I’ve asked security to dispatch him off the premises.

Londoner

You should hear them talk. Unbelievable sounds they make. I say one talking once on a documentary about something grim.

Captain obvious

You seem unaware that there is a difference between Parliament & the government. This was a clear example of the court requiring the government to follow rules laid down by Parliament. Entirely conventional.

(3)(0)

Anon

Just ridiculous. The nation needs more capacity in London and now because of these hippies the money will be frittered away on spending in grim northern Brexit hovels of towns.

(5)(7)

Anon

I completely agree, but I don’t think a third runway at LHR, adding a vast amount of additional air traffic across London’s east to west landing corridor is the right answer. Instead, proposals to expand both London Stansted and London Gatwick airports should be considered.

Both have only one runway despite servicing a multitude of international destinations, including numerous daily flights to other hub airports like DXB. Considering the readily available road and rail connection to both airports, this seems to be the best option.

(9)(0)

Addleshaws NQ

Can’t we just expand LCY?

(0)(0)

Extinction rebel

We should just close down all the airports, along with the tube, cars, buses and other sources of pollution. Can use horses instead. We may need to turn Slaughter and May’s office into giant stables for all City workers commuting to job.

(1)(0)

S&M encumbent.

FYI if you come anywhere near bunhill row, we’ll throw the white book at you.

(0)(0)

Kirkland NQ

Ha. Commercial travel, please.

Get on my private jet.

(2)(1)

Tom

Londoners running down Birmingham what a joke. London stinks, has homeless people everywhere you look, high crime & fatality rate, not to mention the highest chance of a terror attack. The trains, tube & overground are filthy & disgustingly overcrowded. It wasn’t good in the late 80s when I made my fortune there stockbroking (in 3 years) though now it’s not fit for human habitation. Admittedly Birmingham is a dump too, though would have to fall a long way to take London’s role as the UK’s worst city. I’m eternally grateful to all those high earners for ploughing all their money into squalid London property in suburbia. It means people like me can enjoy a 4000 square foot house in many acres in smog free surroundings where it’s safe for kids to walk the streets.

(4)(6)

London Lad

Lmao who let you out of your cage you deluded turd

(6)(1)

Bantz Per Minute

“homeless people everywhere you look, high crime & fatality rate”

Pot kettle loooooooooooooooool

(0)(1)

Anonymous

He is a Brexiturd flamer typing from his bedsit in Preston.

(2)(2)

Tim

Sad, you lot throw mud at each other, and NO ONE even mentions climate change

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories