Legal challenge launched against Government’s decision to back Heathrow 3rd runway

7.4.2009   (press release from the organisations involved)

A coalition representing   millions of people today launched a legal challenge
against the Government over its decision in January to give BAA permission to
draw up detailed plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.   The coalition
includes residents’ organisations NoTRAG (No Third Runway Action Group) and HACAN
as well as seven local councils and leading green groups (1).

The key points of the challenge will be:

–   That the UK risks breaching noise targets and the EU legal limits on air pollution;

–   That the decision will seriously undermine the Government’s efforts to meet
its emissions target to tackle climate change;

 –   That the final plan the Government adopted was so different from the proposals
it consulted on there should have been further consultation

Kate Harrison, a solicitor at Harrison Grant, acting for the claimants said:    
"By bringing this Judicial Review, the courts will be able to give their judgement
on whether there should be a full consultation and whether the decision is compatible
with the government’s other legal obligations and policy statements."

When the Government consulted on its plans for a third runway and a sixth terminal
last year it said that it would only give BAA the go-ahead to draw up plans for
expansion if it was confident that the EU legal limits on air pollution, due to
come into force in 2010, would not be breached.   It also said that the size of
the area within the 57 decibel noise contour should be same as it was in 2002.  
Already there are areas around Heathrow where air pollution exceeds the EU legal
limit. The claimants are arguing that the decision the Government made that the
introduction of cleaner and quieter planes will offset the noise and pollution
from a predicted 50% increase in flights is faulty and "irrational" in law.  

In its decision in January the Government attempted to overcome these problems
by saying that it would limit the number of flights on the new runway if it appeared
that the noise, air pollution or emissions targets would be breached.   The claimants
are arguing the, if the Government did limit the flights in this way, it would
mean that BAA may not be able to make money on its huge investment in the third
runway.   Therefore, the claimants are arguing that this is an unrealistic and
flawed decision.   And, in any case, it is so different from the proposals that
were consulted upon that there should have been a further consultation.

Geraldine Nicholson, the Chair of NoTRAG, said, "This legal challenge shows that
we are prepared to use every avenue open to us to save our communities from destruction.
We are fighting the Government in the courts and fighting to win."

John Stewart, the Chair of HACAN, said, "The final decision on a third runway
was cobbled together at the last minute to keep a divided Cabinet happy.   It is
little wonder it appears so open to a legal challenge."  


Notes for Editors:

(1).   Backing the challenge are NoTRAG, HACAN, 7 local authorities in West London
(Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond
upon Thames, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead) and Greenpeace, WWF-UK,


see also

Legal challenge to Heathrow runway plan