High Court Judge Gives Green Light To Third Runway Challenges

Group including H&F Council among five parties set to get full hearing in March

CGI image of how extended airport might look

The High Court ruled this Thursday, 4 October that all five legal challenges brought against Parliament’s decision in June to back a third runway at Heathrow can go to a full hearing.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is among a consortium which is one of the parties taking the case to court.

The hearing will be over two weeks in March in front of two judges. 

HACAN chair John Stewart said: "This is a blow to the Government.  At best it probably thought it would just need to defend two or three of the challenges."

The five parties are:

  • A consortium of local authorities (Hillingdon, Hammersmith & Fulham, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead), Greenpeace and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
  • Heathrow Hub Limited (promoters of a rival scheme to expand Heathrow
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Plan B, an environmental justice organisation
  • Neil Spurrier – a resident of Twickenham, Middlesex

Due to the size of the cases, amount of paperwork involved, and the public interest in the case, the hearings in March will be heard by two judges and will be heard in the largest courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice.

It was also noted that a separate courtroom may have to be used as overspill, with a TV link to the main proceedings, also due to levels of interest.

Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said, "These legal challenges are of the Government’s own making.

"It is not insignificant that the judge has permitted all five claimants to proceed to judicial review. In addition to the claim from several councils and the London Mayor, the four other claims raise some serious points of law.

“If the government had not ignored available evidence in their blinkered enthusiasm to expand this already highly disruptive airport, parliament would not have supported the proposal, and these actions would not have been necessary."

John McDonnell MP, who addressed opponents of Heathrow expansion, gathered in solidarity outside the High Court, said: "The third runway project is increasingly recognised as a non-runner. The Government needs to listen this time and time again and stop wasting taxpayers’ money in another failing Grayling project.

"A Government that prevents Heathrow going ahead will send a message that we are serious about climate change, serious about creating a zero-carbon economy and the development of our transport network will not be concentrated in one part of the country."

A spokesman for Back Heathrow said: "Local people and the democratic process have spoken and we're very confident that this will be backed up by the courts formally through this judicial process. After decades of delay this project looks well on course to deliver for local communities and our country. Not before time."

The council group, which includes Hammersmith & Fulham Council, along with The Mayor of London and Greenpeace are challenging the Government on the grounds of air quality, climate change, strategic environmental assessment including failing properly to deal with the noise consequences and surface access impacts.

On air quality they say, among other things, that the Government has misunderstood and misapplied the law on air quality.

On surface access the councils' concerns include that the NPS fails to recognise the scale of the challenge to accommodate additional traffic movements without unacceptable effects on the transport network and unacceptable effects from traffic pollution.

"We have given the Government numerous opportunities to address our concerns and answer our questions and they have demonstrably failed to do so, "said Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council when the challenge was announced in July.

"The Government has misunderstood and misapplied the law on air quality, despite having already lost recent legal challenges on this issue. The evidence of unacceptable damage to the environment and the health and wellbeing of many thousands of people is untenable in both law and common sense."

October 5, 2018