Heathrow Victory in the High Court – an assessment of what it means

Heathrow Victory in the High Court

An Assessment by John Stewart, Chairman of Hacan and of AirportWatch


The Third Runway has not yet been dropped but the ruling in the High Court of
Lord Justice Carnwath is hugely significant not just for Heathrow but for airport
expansion across the country.
The ruling

He said that that the decision by the Government in January 2009 to give BAA
the green light to draw up detailed plans for a third runway could not, in law,
be regarded as a policy decision because it failed to take full account of policy
developments in the areas of climate change and economics since the Air Transport
White Paper was published in 2003.   The Government had admitted that it was the
2003 White Paper which framed the decision.   He also found that the Government
had done insufficient work on how the increased number of passengers could be
accommodated on the roads and railways to warrant the third terminal being given
the green light.


Wider implications for other airport campaigns


It is, however, the finding around the White Paper that has most significance
for both Heathrow and for expansion proposals at other airports.   The White Paper
is Government policy.   As such all the expansion proposals at airports in the
UK are based on it.   Until now the White Paper has not been able to be challenged
at public enquiries because it was Government policy.


The Aviation White Paper killed off


This ruling changes all that.   The judge has ruled that the White Paper is out-of-date
because it does not take account of crucial developments in policy in the fields
of climate change and economics.   The White Paper is no longer ‘the bible’ campaigners
cannot challenge.


Government reaction


The Government says that it will take account of new policy developments when
drawing up its National Policy Statement in aviation, expected in 2011.   If Labour
is still in power, we wait to see what will emerge.   But until then all expansion
proposals based in the White Paper can be challenged.


A very significant judgment


The respected environment journalist, Geoffrey Lean, writing in the Daily Telegraph,
has said that the judgment may be even more significant than that.   He is arguing
that the effect of the ruling is that the Government is required to take into
account the latest policy developments on climate change with regard to any new
carbon-emitting development.


The future of a third runway
The future of the third runway?   The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats
have pledged to scrap it if they are in power after the forthcoming General Election.  
This ruling makes it a lot more difficult for a Labour Government to proceed with
For background on the High Court judgement see
The Government’s Heathrow policy is in tatters this morning after the High Court
ruled that ministers’ decision to give a green light to the proposed 3rd runway
at Heathrow does not hold any weight. The judge dismissed the Government’s claims
to the contrary as ‘untenable in law and common sense’. If the Government wants
to pursue its plans for Heathrow expansion it must now go back to square one and
reconsider the entire case for the runway. The implications of today’s ruling
are profound, not just for Heathrow but for airport expansion plans across the
UK. Lord Justice Carnwath ruled that the 2003 Air Transport White Paper – the
foundation of expansion plans across the country – is obsolete because it is inconsistent
with the Climate Change Act 2008.         26.3.2010   More …..
and more at     Heathrow news