Campaigners gear up for legal challenge against decision for runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick

CPRE (the Campaign to Protect Rural England), which was one of the charities, which successfully took the last Heathrow expansion scheme to court, says it could do the same again if ministers press ahead with a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick. CPRE said it has always had “serious concerns” about the Airports Commission’s work, and believed their final runway recommendation was “bound to be tainted”. CPRE’s transport campaigner said: “If the government decides to proceed we are bound to take legal advice as the first step to a challenge in the courts.” Legal challenges have become inevitable with any big project, as opponents probe how effectively the decision process has been. HS2 has faced a number of judicial reviews. Back in 2010 CPRE was part of a coalition that took a court action against plans by the then Labour government, for a Heathrow runway. The judge found that the consultation process was flawed because it used old figures. Though it did not prevent the runway plan, it caused a delay – during which time the new coalition government decided not to go ahead with it. There remains a broad alliance of local authorities and charities that would go for legal challenge again, against either runway.


Campaigners gear up for legal challenge over UK runways

The 2010 court case

Five years ago the CPRE joined ranks with a number of councils and the main anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan in a court action against Labour’s plan for a third runway in west London.

Back then, the judge found that the consultation process was flawed because it used old figures for the economy and the environment.

It didn’t stop the scheme, but it did send ministers away with a lot of homework to do. Not long after that, the coalition came to power and binned the project altogether.

But Hacan’s chair, John Stewart, has told the BBC he’s not certain that the group will go back to the courts this time, if Heathrow comes out on top. [The costs of legal challenge are prohibitive, unless the action is a joint one, with funding raised collectively].

“It’s very expensive, we’d have to know there is a good chance of winning”, he said.

Despite admitting that some residents might be swayed by offers of more financial help and respite from noise, Hacan knows that without any doubt there would be “overwhelming local opposition”, if the government picks Heathrow.

Gatwick expansion also evokes a lot of local opposition, although not on the same scale because fewer people live under the flightpath. [However, recent changes to flight paths have alerted people in the Gatwick area to the threat, and got thousands of people active in their opposition both to the changed flight paths, and the threat of a new runway, which could only make noise hugely worse. And the runway would have huge other implications for the surrounding area, in terms of transport, road and rail congestion, building and development, change of character, pressure on social infrastructure etc – in turning the area into something like the area around Heathrow].

The CPRE remains confident of support no matter which scheme is favoured,

“We were part of a broad alliance of local authorities and charities that in 2010 defeated the last attempt to build a new runway,” said Mr Smyth.

“We can be sure the alliance this time round will be even bigger”.





Back in February 2010:


Heathrow runway opponents launch legal challenge to stop expansion

Local councils, green groups and residents go to high court to argue that consultation for a third runway was flawed
Sipson third runway at Heathrow
The residents of Sipson have been protesting against a third runway at Heathrow for the last seven years. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire Steve Parsons/PA

A coalition of local councils, green groups and residents will today mount a legal challenge to government plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The coalition’s lawyers will argue at the high court in London that thegovernment’s consultation process for Heathrow expansion was fundamentally flawed.

The then transport secretary Geoff Hoon gave the go-ahead for the expansion in January last year, but the Conservatives are opposed to a third runway.

The coalition, which includes six local authorities, Greenpeace and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), will also say the expansion decision is at odds with the UK’s overall climate change targets.

The court will also be told that there is no evidence to support the government’s claim that there will be enough public transport to serve the new runway.

If the expansion goes ahead, the village of Sipson, close to the airport, will be destroyed to clear land for the runway.

Speaking on behalf of the local councils, Hillingdon council leader Ray Puddifoot said: “We’ve had no choice but to go to court to sort out the mess left behind by a decision that was little more than a quick fix. From the moment Geoff Hoon announced his decision to the House it has steadily unravelled.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: “It’s been clear from the start that there has been huge opposition to this runway. Nearly 90% of the people who responded to the consultation opposed the expansion of Heathrow. Yet mysteriously the government gave the go-ahead.

“This gives a clear demonstration of how little they value the views of the public. Now we’ve got the chance to submit this process to legal scrutiny. We don’t expect the courts to be any more impressed with it than we were.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The Department stands fully behind the decisions on Heathrow announced last year and will be defending them robustly in court.”

Labour peer Lord Soley, the campaign director for the aviation coalition Future Heathrow, told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “Frankly, people are not going to stop flying. We need to be realistic about that.”

He described today’s court challenge as “a waste of council tax payers’ money”.


Heathrow third runway opponents win court challenge

26.3.2010 (BBC)
Hillingdon Council’s leader said it was ‘a crushing defeat for the government’

Campaigners have won a High Court battle over plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Councils, residents and green groups had said the government’s plan was at odds with climate change targets.

Lord Justice Carnwath said the public consultation process used was invalid as it was based on out-of-date figures.

The decision does not rule out a third runway but calls for government policy to be reviewed. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the runway was still needed.

The Department for Transport vowed to “robustly defend” the plan.

‘In tatters’

The judge, sitting in London, said the government’s public consultation did not take account of the latest information on economic benefits and climate change and was based on figures which were eight years old.

The coalition that sought the judicial review into the government’s decision, which was made in 2003 and confirmed in January 2009, includes six local authorities, Greenpeace and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Gordon Brown: New runway is “entirely compatible with our carbon reduction target”

The coalition said in a joint statement that the government’s Heathrow policy was “in tatters this morning” after the judge ruled the decision to give the third runway the go ahead was “untenable”.

The statement said: “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.”

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell, who has led the campaign against the expansion of Heathrow for the past 30 years, said: “This judgment is a victory.

“It means that whichever party is in government they will not now be able to force through Heathrow expansion.”

In his ruling, Lord Justice Carnwath said: “Whether there should be a third runway at Heathrow Airport is a question of national importance and acute political controversy.

‘Full capacity’

“It is a matter on which the main parties are currently divided and which may well become a significant debating point at the forthcoming general election.”

He adjourned the hearing until after Easter to give both sides time to consider what formal orders the court should make.

By Richard Scott
Transport Correspondent
The decision was greeted with jubilation by campaigners.

Outside the High Court they waved their copies of the judgement and drank champagne.

The judge agreed with them that the consultation carried out by the government into a third runway did not take account of the latest evidence.

The decision means that Labour would have to re-evaluate the evidence if it wins the election and still wants to press ahead with a third runway.

Campaigners hope that will give Labour the perfect excuse to drop the policy.

But Labour says it is still in favour of a third runway adding it was always intending to re-examine the evidence as part of a national policy statement on airports next year.

And the judge accepted this argument, saying it did not much matter that the latest evidence had not been taken into account in the consultation, because that would happen in the policy review.

So he said he would not quash the government’s decision to support a third runway.

In the end, both sides are claiming victory.

Following the ruling, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis reaffirmed the government’s support for expansion, stating that Heathrow Airport was currently operating at “full capacity”.

He stressed the judgement did not rule out a new runway, but called for a review “of all the relevant policy issues, including the impact of climate change policy”.

Lord Adonis said: “A new runway at Heathrow will help secure jobs and underpin economic growth as we come out of recession.

“It is also entirely compatible with our carbon reduction target, as demonstrated in the recent report by the Committee on Climate Change.”

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, the prime minister said: “We are taking seriously both the concerns that people have and the need for public consultation.

“But we took a tough decision, the right decision necessary for the future of Britain and the economy, and a new runway will help secure Britain’s economic future.”

Conservative leader David Cameron said the ruling showed the government had made “the wrong judgement”.

“We said the third runway shouldn’t go ahead, we were absolutely clear about that.”

The coalition against the runway had argued that there was no evidence to support the government’s claim that there will be enough public transport to serve it.

‘Change of policy’

In approving the third runway, the government had said it could meet the environmental conditions for expansion at Heathrow set out in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper (ATWP), relating to noise, air quality and access.

Nigel Pleming QC, for the coalition, said the “economic and environmental” position had fundamentally changed since 2003, which raised the question of whether the government should continue to support the expansion.

Lord Justice Carnwath ruled the coalition’s submissions “add up, in my view, to a powerful demonstration of the potential significance of developments in climate change policy since the 2003 White Paper”.

He said they were “clearly matters which will need to be taken into account” under the new national policy statement dealing with airport expansion.

While ordering it be reconsidered, the judge refused to quash the government’s decision to “confirm policy support” for a third runway, stating that he doubted whether such an order would be appropriate.

map showing plans for expanded Heathrow Airport




Heathrow’s third runway ‘dead’ and runway decision ‘untenable’

26.3.2010   (

A high court ruling has set back the third runway at Heathrow for years, with
campaigners calling the project “dead”.

Lord Justice Carnwath decided the public consultation based on a 2003 white paper
was invalid because it had been overtaken by events based on evidence about climate

His ruling that the 2003 air transport white paper was incompatible with the
Climate Change Act 2008 means the government’s entire aviation policy must now
be reviewed, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Its alliance with local councils and environmental groups has resulted in a resounding
defeat for the government, according to commentators.

Labour backbencher John McDonnell, speaking outside the court, said: “This is
a dead project and the government needs to recognise it.”

Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer added: “We will always fight but effectively
there is now such a barrier that it cannot be surmounted by the government.”

Transport secretary Andrew Adonis quickly put out a statement saying he welcomed
the ruling, however.   (see below)

But Ray Puddifoot, speaking on behalf of local councils, said: “If after this
ministers are still intent on pressing ahead with expansion they will have to
go back to the beginning and justify the whole economic case in public.

“Knowing what we now know about rising carbon costs this is an argument they
cannot win.”

link to article



The full text of the Judge’s ruling is at