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Heathrow granted permission to challenge court’s ruling blocking third runway

7th May, 2020


Heathrow Airport was today given permission by the Supreme Court to legally challenge the Court of Appeal’s decision of 27th February that has put the brakes on a third runway. Heathrow wants to overturn the court’s ruling that the policy underpinning expansion at the airport was unlawful because it had failed to take proper account of the UK’s commitments on climate change, specifically the commitment made under the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees. The Government indicated at the time that it would not be appealing the judgment, leaving Heathrow to bring the challenge alone.

The coronavirus crisis has caused Heathrow traffic to plummet by 90%, and with ongoing need for social distancing the aviation industry is anticipating only a slow resumption of air travel once restrictions are lifted. The Government has made clear that a third runway would be a private project that will not be financed using public money. Questions about future travel demand given the ongoing need for measures preventing the spread of the virus will now add to the uncertainty about Heathrow’s ability to demonstrate that the Court of Appeal reached the wrong conclusion.

Cait Hewitt from AEF said:

Heathrow has spent decades trying – and failing – to demonstrate that the environmental impacts of a third runway needn’t get in the way of expansion. The Government has accepted the Court of Appeal’s ruling that its policy on airport expansion needs to be reviewed in light of the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions. Heathrow needs to do the same. 

The UK’s recovery after the Coronavirus pandemic needs to deliver positive solutions for employment and the climate. Airport expansion would lock us in to old patterns of privileging high-carbon industry over low-carbon energy and transport. With people starting to see the lifestyle benefits of using video calls to connect with work colleagues around the world, the case for a new runway being required to meet the needs of businesses has never looked weaker.