Heathrow expansion plans boosted by Supreme Court decision

Posted on 16 December, 2020 by Advance 

Heathrow Airport Limited has successfully challenged a Court of Appeal ruling given in February which cast doubt on the future of the proposed expansion, looking at whether the Secretary of State had failed to take account of the UK’s climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement, which might render the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) favouring the development of a third runway at Heathrow Airport unlawful.


Heathrow Expansion Masterplan in 2050.
Courtesy Heathrow Airport

The respondents (Friends of the Earth Ltd and others) had challenged the ANPS on the basis of its failure to take account of the Paris Agreement. The High Court dismissed their application for judicial review but the Court of Appeal allowed their appeal and held that the ANPS was unlawful.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that it was lawful and legitimate based on the climate targets prevailing at the time. 

A Heathrow Spokesperson said: “This is the right result for the country, which will allow Global Britain to become a reality. Only by expanding the UK’s hub airport can we connect all of Britain to all of the growing markets of the world, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in every nation and region of our country.

"Demand for aviation will recover from Covid, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany.  

"Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin. The Government has made decarbonising aviation a central part of its green growth agenda, through wider use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel as well as new technology.

"As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure their safety and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps.”

The GMB Union - the union for aviation workers - also welcomed today's ruling by the Supreme Court to approve the building of a third runway at Heathrow.

Warren Kenny, Acting General Secretary, GMB said: “Today’s ruling is a welcome boost at the end to a gruelling year for aviation workers who have seen their industry brought to its knees by the pandemic.
“This judgment is a much-needed injection of hope for economic recovery and the creation of many thousands of good, unionised jobs at Heathrow and in the wider supply chain.

“The Government has no more excuses now. It’s time for Ministers to step up and back Heathrow and the wider aviation industry with the support it needs to get itself flying once again.”