Hammersmith & Fulham Council will join the 4 councils’ legal challenge against Heathrow 3rd runway
Hammersmith & Fulham Council has vowed to keep fighting plans for a third runway at Heathrow, even if Parliament supports the scheme.
The council has said it will seek to join any legal challenge against a decision in favour of expanding the west London airport – a move the council says would subject residents to a mire of misery and pollution.
“We absolutely refuse to sit back and let such a potentially catastrophic decision be made without a fight,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, H&F Council Leader.
“We’ve made our stance very clear; a third runway at Heathrow would mean more noise for residents already suffering noise disturbance, more pressure on our roads and an unacceptable increase in air pollution.
“If we need to take legal action, we will, as the environmental cost of meekly accepting a decision in favour of expansion, would be far worse.”
On 5 June, the Government published a document, which, if approved by Parliament, would support plans for a third runway and effectively give the scheme outline planning permission. Parliament will soon vote on this. Once a policy supporting a third runway is adopted, Heathrow can then submit details and seek approval for its scheme under the national planning process for large infrastructure projects.
In 2014, H&F Council set up a resident-led commission to investigate the potential effects of expansion on residents’ lives. It reported back that the overall impact of Heathrow expansion would be negative, with any benefits unlikely to be felt by those in H&F.
Commission chair, Christina Smyth, blogged last week on the Government’s decision.
Speaking of the council’s announcement, she said: “Our position remains the same, we see little benefit to H&F residents from expansion at Heathrow. In fact, we’d pay a heavy price, so we’re grateful our council is prepared to fight for our interests.
Furthermore, the most recently published Government information shows that over-development of London and the South East could act to the detriment of the regions and nations of the UK as well.
“It’s time for residents to reject the third runway once and for all, and demand that better solutions are found to the UK’s transport woes.”
Transport for London may join legal challenge against Heathrow runway, due to lack of clarity on surface transport
Transport for London (TfL) are the expert body on transport issues for London. They have long been very concerned about the surface access problems a 3rd Heathrow runway would cause. They now say the government could face a legal challenge, if there is no better clarity on the matter. TfL would join the legal challenge of the 4 councils. TfL director of city planning, Alex Williams, said he had not seen evidence from the DfT or Heathrow to support the airport’s claim that the public transport mode share of its passengers of 50% by 2030 would be achieved, or how airport traffic could be kept at current levels. By contrast, the analysis by TfL on the matter is completely transparent. Alex said: “If no-one’s prepared to share information or substantiate their case about how you can deliver those mode share targets…then you’re just heading straight for a court hearing, because we’re at loggerheads and no-one’s prepared to share that information or have that technical discussion about the merits of the case.” About 40% of Heathrow passenger trips are now on public transport, and TfL estimates this number would need to rise to 69% by 2030, for Heathrow to meet its pledge of no extra traffic on roads near the airport. TfL says the Southern and Western Rail Access schemes rail schemes are “essential” if there is a 3rd runway.
Court rules that legal challenge by 4 councils cannot be heard until final Heathrow NPS published
Four councils that a negatively affected by Heathrow, plus Greenpeace and a local resident, applied for a legal challenge against the DfT because of its plans for a Heathrow 3rd runway. The case has now been struck out, at the High Court, by Mr Justice Cranston, on the grounds that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the claim, because of the provision in the Planning Act 2008 which said that proceedings may only be brought in a six-week period that followed once the NPS was adopted, or if later, published. The claim is “precluded” until the NPS is published, and that might be the end of 2017 or early 2018. The court can then consider the challenge. The legal claim is because there was a failure by government to consult residents before going back on promises made repeatedly that a 3rd runway would not be built. John Sauven (Greenpeace) said: ‘Today’s ruling was about the timing of our legal challenge, not its merit. It doesn’t change the fact that ministers have no solution to the huge air and noise pollution problems caused by a third runway.” Ravi Govindia (Wandsworth) said “The country is now going to waste more time developing a scheme that will never pass a simple legal test on air quality. Nothing is going to change between now and 2018 to make this scheme any less polluting.”
Councils and campaigners take first step towards legal challenge against government support for Heathrow runway
Solicitors Harrison Grant acting on behalf of Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead Councils, together with Greenpeace and a Hillingdon resident have (17th November) sent a letter, under the Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol, to the Secretary of State for Transport. The letter gives the Government a period of 14 days in which to withdraw its decision, issued on the 25 October to support a 3rd runway at Heathrow. If it fails to do so, judicial review proceedings will be commenced in the High Court, without further notice to the Government, on the basis that the Government’s approach to air quality and noise is unlawful and also that it has failed to carry out a fair and lawful consultation exercise prior to issuing its decision. The 33 page pre-action letter sets out comprehensive grounds for legal challenge, drawing on a broad range of statute and legal precedent, as well as highlighting the many promises and statements made by senior politicians confirming that the third runway would not be built. The move comes shortly after the Government’s air quality plans were overturned in the High Court, putting ministers under greater pressure to reduce illegal levels of air pollution in places like Heathrow. The latest court ruling rejected the current government plans to tackle emissions as inadequate and based on over optimistic assumptions.
The Government published a document on 5 June which would effectively give outline planning permission for a third runway at Heathrow. Parliament will vote on this in the next three weeks. We asked Christina Smyth, Chair of the independent Hammersmith & Fulham Commission on Airport Expansion, set up by the council in 2014, to explain the issues.
Christina Smyth’s blog
We already benefit from Heathrow as it exists now. We would derive very limited benefit from expansion, in the form of a modest number of jobs and more, but dearer, flight options. We would pay a heavy price in terms of greater noise, more traffic and even more pollution. The commission recommended that the council should resist a third runway.
Our work has stood the passage of time and our report is available on the council’s website (pdf 875KB).
Since then it has become clearer that Heathrow expansion would not benefit the UK as a whole either.
The Government’s latest published business case shows that there is no net benefit to the UK. In technical language this is the ‘net present value’ which shows a range of plus £3.3bn to minus £2.2bn over a 60 year period. Stripping out the large value assigned to overseas travellers just using Heathrow to change flights, the gross benefits are only between £5.8bn and £9.9bn (compared with a range of £8.9bn to £10.3bn for Gatwick). Heathrow are still claiming £147bn gross benefits for the project!
We, as taxpayers, will be subsidising this project, both directly (up to £18bn for transport infrastructure near the airport) and through maintaining domestic routes to Heathrow from regional airports. This money could be spent on UK-wide infrastructure such as enhanced broadband and transport improvements for the north.
There could well be further public subsidy. Heathrow Airport Ltd already has high levels of debt. It will finance the third runway by increasing that debt to unfeasibly high levels (from £11bn to £34bn). PwC estimates that the sterling bond market would be swamped by the amount Heathrow needs to raise.
The hub model, funnelling air traffic through Heathrow, is outmoded. Instead, regions could develop their own infrastructure and the newer point-to-point routes, rebalancing the economy and not overheating London and the south east further. Both are not possible because of the ceiling on carbon emissions enshrined in the Climate Change Act. So Heathrow gains at the expense of the regions.
One of the reasons that the third runway retains the support of some MPs is the panic surrounding Brexit. Realising that Brexit will leave a big economic hole, there is a knee jerk reaction to search for a large, shiny, ready-made solution. But these MPs have not realised how weak the business case has become. To my mind, developing international trade could be done more economically and more evenly across the country, with a balanced approach to UK infrastructure spending.
It is now official Government policy to bring more noise and air pollution to Hammersmith & Fulham. So it’s time for residents to reject the third runway once and for all, and demand that better solutions are found to the UK’s transport woes.