Heathrow runway rival – “Heathrow Hub” – launches legal challenge to DfT on its 3rd runway decision
The sponsor of a rival project to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow, Heathrow Hub, has started its challenge against the DfT for its decision to back the airport’s north-west runway scheme. Sky News has obtained a letter sent on Friday 27th July by lawyers acting for Heathrow Hub, which paves the way for it to seek a full judicial review of the Government’s decision. They have engaged Martin Kingston QC, a planning expert at No5 Chambers, and Robert O’Donoghue, a prominent figure in cases of competition law from Brick Court, to fight its case. In the pre-action letter, the law firm DAC Beachcroft accused the DfT of failing to provide information about the Heathrow decision-making process sought under freedom of information (FoI) laws. It requested that the DfT’s Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) be quashed on 5 principal grounds. These include a flawed understanding by ministers of the capacity for new air traffic movements created by extending the airport’s northern runway, to the west. Heathrow Hub also believes it was unlawful for the DfT to “effectively [give Heathrow] a veto” over their proposal (the airport always favoured their own scheme). Heathrow Hub is a privately owned company, funded by a hedge fund manager.
Heathrow runway rival – “Heathrow Hub” – launches legal battle over £14bn project
Ministers’ backing for Heathrow’s third runway was based on flawed information and analysis, a letter seen by Sky News alleges.
Sunday 29 July 2018
By Mark Kleinman, City editor (Sky News)
Law firm DAC Beachcroft accuses the Department for Transport of failing to provide information
The sponsor of a rival project to expand capacity at Heathrow Airport has kicked off a legal challenge to thwart last month’s move by Chris Grayling, the embattled Transport Secretary, to approve its £14bn third runway.
Sky News has obtained a letter sent on Friday by lawyers acting for Heathrow Hub – which favours a cheaper scheme to extend one of the airport’s existing runways – which paves the way for it to seek a full judicial review of the Government’s decision.
In the so-called pre-action letter, the law firm DAC Beachcroft accused the Department for Transport (DfT) of failing to provide information about the Heathrow decision-making process sought under freedom of information laws.
It requested that the DfT’s National Policy Statement, which was designed to end years of logjam over airport expansion, be quashed on five principal grounds.
These include what Heathrow Hub has argued for some time was a flawed understanding on ministers’ part of the capacity for new air traffic movements created by extending the airport’s northern runway.
The privately owned company, which has been funded by the same hedge fund manager who financed a recent exploration for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, also believes it was unlawful for the DfT to “effectively [give Heathrow] a veto over the Claimant’s proposal”.
Sources said that Heathrow Hub had engaged Martin Kingston QC, a planning expert at No5 Chambers, and Robert O’Donoghue, a prominent figure in cases of competition law from Brick Court, to fight its case.
The pre-action letter threatens to place a further obstacle in the way of Heathrow’s expansion – a policy which has won the backing of many business leaders, but has angered a number of the airport’s biggest airline customers, including British Airways’ parent company.
A separate judicial review process has already been set in motion by five London councils with the support of Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, and Greenpeace, the environmental charity.
Gatwick was also a serious contender to win the government’s backing for a new runway, but has appeared to rule out a formal legal challenge to Mr Grayling’s decision.
MPs voted overwhelmingly to back the plan in June – a vote which the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was ridiculed for missing over his long-held opposition to Heathrow gaining extra capacity.
One source who backs Heathrow Hub’s proposal said the legal challenge was important because the selection process had been “rigged in favour of Heathrow Airport, which already has a dominant market position”.
Councils notify Secretary of State that they will seek Judicial Review of Government’s decision to approve Heathrow 3rd runway NPS
A group of local authorities has formally notified the Secretary of State for Transport that it intends to seek judicial review of the Government’s decision to give policy support in the Airports National Policy Statement (‘NPS’) for a 3rd Heathrow runway. The councils are challenging the Government on the grounds of air quality, climate change, and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) including failing properly to deal with the noise consequences and surface access impacts. On air quality they say, amongst other things, that the Government has misunderstood and misapplied the law on air quality. On surface access the councils say, amongst other things, that the NPS fails to recognise the scale of the challenge to accommodate additional trips without unacceptable effects on the transport network and unacceptable effects from traffic pollution. The Government must now respond to the councils’ formal letter before action. If the Transport Secretary does not agree to quash the NPS, the local authorities will bring judicial review proceedings.The Boroughs taking the legal action are Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Windsor & Maidenhead Council, and Hammersmith & Fulham.The group has also been joined by the Mayor of London and Greenpeace.
Legal challenges against Heathrow runway plans – first chance for proper assessment of the NPS details – plans delay inevitable
Although MPs voted to back the Heathrow 3rd runway, lawyers say legal challenges are likely to substantially delay – by at least a year – the start of construction, even if they cannot prevent it. As well as the legal challenge by 5 London councils, and the Mayor of London, that has now started, there will be one by “Heathrow Hub”, the rival runway scheme. The challenges will go to the High Court and could take up to 6 months. The losing party could then appeal to the Court of Appeal, and even if they lose there, they could then appeal to the Supreme Court. The legal process is the first opportunity for Heathrow expansion opponents to take the proposal for a 3rd runway to the High Court, and have all the issues properly assessed – not merely depending on information provided by and for the Department for Transport. There will also be a second opportunity to challenge the plans after the development consent order (DCO) is completed. Under the current plans, Heathrow intends to lodge its development consent order with the secretary of state in 2021, ahead of a 2025 completion date – but that could be delayed due to the legal challenges. Then there must be a General Election by 2022, which Labour might win – with no guarantee they would not oppose the runway plans.
Resident affected by Heathrow noise has given notice to seek Judicial Review against DfT re. runway
Neil Spurrier, a resident in Teddington, a member of the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has given notice that he is seeking a Judicial Review, in the event of Parliament voting in favour of the Airports NPS, to give consent to build a 3rd Heathrow runway. Teddington is already very badly affected by noise, when the airport is operating on easterlies. A 3rd runway would make the noise problem far worse. Neil’s letter to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, says: “I am intending to bring a claim for Judicial Review should the National Policy Statement be put before Parliament and subsequently designated as a National Policy Statement in accordance with the provisions of the Planning Act 2008.” The Matter being challenged is: “The Designation of the National Policy Statement of new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England and in particular the choice of Heathrow airport for expansion with a third runway. I would intend to ask the Court for an order declaring the National Policy Statement void through breaching existing laws and would ask for a prohibiting order prohibiting the continuation of the National Policy Statement or the granting of a Development Consent following the National Policy Statement.”