Appeal Court rules government's decision on Heathrow expansion "unlawful"

Heathrow expansion blocked

Heathrow's expansion faces a challenge Thursday when the Court of Appeal reviews the rejection of lawsuits from Friends of the Earth, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and other parties who say approval of the runway plan violated United Kingdom climate change policy and didn't take account of the Paris climate accord.

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

In June past year, Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood got Boris Johnson to commit to ensuring his plan for the airport in the Thames Estuary near Grain would never be brought back to the table.

Less than a few hours after the ruling, Johnson's spokesman said the government will not appeal, signaling a change of tone in the leadership.

The news has been welcomed by campaigners including those from the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF). "We will carefully consider this complex judgment and set out our next steps in due course", Transport Minister Grant Shapps said.

It has been 17 years since the then transport secretary, Alistair Darling, threw the government's support behind airport expansion, not only at Heathrow but at a number of other locations. The planned third runway would be the first full-length runway built in the London area for 70 years.

"Expanding Heathrow, Britain's biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the prime minister's vision of Global Britain".

Heathrow expansion blocked
Campaigners secure legal victory over Heathrow third runway

"We have concluded that the designation of ANPS (Airports National Policy Statement) was unlawful by reason of a failure to take into account the government's commitment to the provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change", he told the packed courtroom in central London.

How dare they decide any issue of public policy after countless debates and inquiries have established all the facts and information the government needs to take an informed decision?

Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye did not seem too concerned about the ruling.

They were cheered by the court ruling, particularly as the change in the political climate offers greater hope for refusal.

"This judgment has exciting wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions", said Will Rundle, Friends of the Earth's head of legal.

Plans for a third runway - which had been on track to open in 2028-29 - would have rerouted rivers, roads and the M25 and contributed an estimated 3-4million tonnes to UK's carbon emissions. Should it be scrapped, airlines and business groups will be seeking answers on where new capacity can be added as Britain's second busiest airport, Gatwick, south of London, is also full in the summer months.

In 2014, Johnson favoured a 112-billion-pound plan to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, but the Airports Commission rejected it as being too expensive, risky and complicated.


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