Heathrow expansion protesters win legal challenge

7.8.2009   (Financial Times)

By Jim Pickard

The case against the expansion of Heathrow will be heard in public later this
year after a High Court victory by a coalition of green groups, councils and local

The judge ruled that the case for the third runway at the west London airport
must be held in open court because of the public interest element.

A three-day hearing, expected in the autumn, could pave the way for the full
judicial review sought by protesters.

At the heart of the case is a statement to parliament on January 15 by Geoff
Hoon , the then transport secretary, giving his backing to the expansion.

Mr Hoon said ministers wanted emissions from Heathrow to return to 2005 levels
by 2050. However, he later seemed to distance himself from the statement.

Mrs Justice Dobbs yesterday said that some of the claimants’ grounds were stronger
than others. But she added: “There are some areas in which clarification is desirable,
including the issue of the defendant’s statement to parliament.”

Environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF-UK and RSPB have argued that the
Heathrow decision is incompatible with the government’s climate change policy.
They believe that the third runway will contribute to higher emissions both from
aircraft and from a rise in “surface traffic” on roads surrounding the airport.

“Putting 220,000 more planes in the sky is completely at odds with the urgent
need to slash emissions and stop runaway climate change,” said John Sauven, executive
director of Greenpeace.

Environmentalists say the argument for the third runway has been undermined by
this week’s comments by Lord Adonis, who succeeded Mr Hoon in June, about high-speed
rail replacing large numbers of short-haul flights.

Lord Adonis also saidthat he was not “agnostic” about which mode of transport
should take priority.

The Department for Transport yesterday said in a terse statement: “We stand by
the decisions made on Heathrow in January.”

The £9bn expansion of Heathrow by its owner BAA will increase the number of flights
from 480,000 to 605,000 a year. Any more increases would depend on whether Britain
was on track to reduce its total aviation emissions.

The plans face political headwinds, however, given that the Conservatives – widely
expected to form the next government – are committed to scrapping the plans.

Mr Hoon told the Financial Times in January that he fully expected legal action
over his decision to back the expansion.

The groups campaigning against a larger Heathrow have won the backing of Boris
Johnson, the Tory mayor of London. But several business bodies are urging the
government to hold firm, arguing that Heathrow is close to full capacity and needs
to be larger to meet growing demand.



see also


Campaigners granted Court hearing over Heathrow third runway decision

Campaigners against a 3rd runway have been granted a hearing in the High Court
to rule on the campaigners’ complaints. In doing so the Judge recognised the "significant
public interest element to the case" as well as the need for "clarification" of
the Transport Secretary’s statement to Parliament in January giving the green
light to expansion.    Opponents are delighted to get a court hearing, which puts
the  Government on the defensive over its controversial   runway decision.   6.8.2009  
More …..