Four important councils say DfT’s Heathrow 3rd runway inquiry “illegal because ministers are biased”
Four Conservative-run councils (Windsor & Maidenhead, Hillingdon, Richmond & Wandsworth) say pro-Heathrow statements made by Conservative ministers including Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary) could mean that the current DfT consultation on adding a 3rd Heathrow runway is unlawful. They say that “A consultation, to be lawful, must be approached with an open mind”. The intervention by the councils will increase and prolong uncertainty over the expansion of Heathrow – or any other new runway. The second consultation by the DfT (itself highly biased in favour of adding a 3rd Heathrow runway) on the expansion of Heathrow (the Airports National Policy Statement consultation) ended before Christmas. The four boroughs questioned the legality of the inquiry in their responses. Their submissions cite pro-Heathrow comments from Mr Grayling and Lord Callanan, the former aviation minister. The transport secretary said in October that the government was “aiming to give [the third runway] the formal go-ahead in the first half of next year” and that the expansion would “make a difference right across this country”. The boroughs are members of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, which has long argued that expansion should be stopped.
A new consultation on plans for a third runway at Heathrow is illegal because of bias by ministers towards the expansion, councils near the airport have alleged.
Paul McGuinness, chairman of the coalition, said: “There’s a growing sense that the case for Heathrow’s third runway is falling apart. The evidence, including the government’s own, simply no longer stacks up to support it. The only thing they seem to have on their side is the [Department for Transport], whose prejudgment in advance of its own consultation is now raising serious legal questions in the year ahead.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We have been clear that our preferred option for increasing airport capacity is a third runway at Heathrow. We have consulted with an open mind and once we have reviewed all of the submissions we will set out how we intend to proceed.”
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Link to the 4 Councils’ joint NPS response – https://www.richmond.gov.uk/media/15301/four_borough_response_to_heathrow_consultation.pdf