In the 4 councils’ legal challenge, lawyers say Government plan for Heathrow runway is ‘unlawful’ because people believed repeated promises

Four Conservative councils affected by Heathrow (with Greenpeace, and a local resident) are bringing a legal challenge against the government, because of the plans for a third runway. They say the plan is “unlawful” because locals bought houses and sent children to schools due to repeated Tory promises it would not happen. The councils argue that their residents had a “legitimate” expectation” the project would not be approved, due to assurances received. They have identified 19 “broken promises” made by David Cameron, Theresa May and other political figures saying the 3rd runway would be scrapped.  One is by Theresa May in 2009, telling her constituents she will fight the 3rd runway. The lawyers, Harrison Grant, say such promises are not in law to be treated as mere “empty gestures” but legally significant promises. People had, reasonably enough, believed them. There was a hearing at the High Court on 19th and 20th January, and a ruling may be given this coming week. This will decide whether the councils can bring forward their judicial review claims.  The DfT has tried to get the case thrown out or delayed till after there is a parliamentary vote on the National Policy Statement on Heathrow – probably around the end of this year. 


Heathrow third runway ‘unlawful’ because locals made life choices after Tory promises, opponents claim in legal bid

Theresa May’s government backed a third runway at Heathrow in 2016 despite past Tory opposition
By B

Heathrow’s third runway is “unlawful” because locals bought houses and sent children to schools due to repeated Tory promises it would not happen, campaigners are arguing.

In legal documents seen by this newspaper, four Tory councils challenging the Government are arguing their residents had a “legitimate” expectation” the project would not be approved.

They have identified 19 “broken promises” made by David Cameron, Theresa May and other political figures saying the third runway would be scrapped.

The statements – dating back to a time when the Tories opposed the change – should not be deemed “empty gestures” but legally significant promises, they argue.

The claims lie at the heart of a legal challenge from Tory local authorities including Mrs May’s own council of Windsor and Maidenhead, as well as Greenpeace and a local resident.

The row is set to come to a head this week. The courts are expected to rule whether the campaigners can bring forward their judicial review claims now.

Ministers have sought to delay the legal wrangling until after MPs have voted on the expansion, likely to happen near the end of this year.

This week the Government is also expected to publish the consultation on Heathrow’s third runway, according to senior government sources.

A 34-page letter from Harrison Grant, the lawyers representing the campaigners, sent in November to Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, spelled out their arguments.

Before the 2010 election the Tories were vehemently against Labour’s plans for a third runway. They declared the plans had been scrapped shortly after winning office that year.

However last October, after years of uncertainty which saw an independent body created and consulted on airport expansion, the Tories backed the third runway.

Now a list of 19 “broken promises” have been identified by campaigners who plan to use the Tory hierarchy’s own words to claim locals were misled.

One is Mr Cameron’s comment on 21 October 2009 while opposition leader: “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead, no ifs, no buts.”

Another is from Mrs May’s “Summer 2009 Annual Report” to constituents, where she promises to “fight to stop the third runway.”

A third “broken promise” is the line in the Coalition’s programme for government, which said: “We will cancel the third runway at Heathrow.”

In their letter, the lawyers representing Tory councils fighting the decision said the comments amounted to a “legitimate expectation” the third runway would not be approved.

“The Government made a series of clear and unequivocal promises that there would be no third runway at Heathrow,” they wrote.

“These promises were preceded by years of uncertainty over the status of a third runway at Heathrow. The residents of the Boroughs spent years living with the blight arising from this uncertainty and had reasonably believed that Mr Cameron’s promise in 2009, and the subsequent promises of the Government, had finally laid the matter to rest.”

“In light of these clear and unequivocal promises by the Government, the residents of the Boroughs (particularly the residents of Hillingdon) planned their lives on the basis that there would be no third runway at Heathrow.”

The lawyers argue that such promises “are not in law to be treated by mere empty gestures”, adding the lack of justification in changing stance mean the approval of a third runway was unlawful.

Two other claims are being made: that the Government has not consulted on the decision correctly and that air quality assurances are “wrong”.

Councillor Ravi Govindia, the Tory leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “People bought homes, put their kids in local schools and made all sorts of life decisions based on the belief that this threat to their community had passed.

“Those promises have now been broken without any credible justification and without consultation with the people who stand to lose.

John Sauven, Greenpeace UK executive director, said: “A third runway can only go ahead by steamrolling over local people’s legitimate expectations.”

The claims are likely to be countered by the fact that the Tories did not include their opposition to the third runway in their 2015 election manifesto.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “We cannot comment on ongoing legal action.”



See earlier:

Four councils + Greenpeace have served legal papers on Government over Heathrow runway decision

Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, together with Greenpeace and a resident of Hillingdon, have today served legal papers on the government for unlawfully supporting the expansion of Heathrow. In a legal submission to the High Court, the ‘coalition’ is seeking a Judicial Review of the government’s decision to support the expansion of the airport – something that which the Government previously promised would never happen. Harrison Grant Solicitors, on behalf of the coalition have filed a formal request for a judicial review. If successful, it is hoped the case will be heard in the High Court early next year. Together, the claimants argue that the Government has failed to recognise the project’s unlawful air quality impacts and that the consultation held to make the decision was fundamentally flawed. Therefore, the expansion of the airport cannot go ahead. In addition, the legal challenge seeks to hold Government to the promise that a third runway would never be built. If the request is successful, and the coalition wins the judicial review, the decision to proceed with the runway would be overturned. Ray Puddifoot said “There are two grounds of challenge at this stage. In addition to our claim that there has been a significant breach of established air quality laws, we have also claimed that the Government has acted contrary to our legitimate expectation that it would honour its repeated promises not to expand Heathrow.”

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