Appeal Court ruling on Heathrow expansion will be on Thurs 27th February – Theresa Villiers says the runway should be cancelled

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Environment until a fortnight ago, when Boris had her moved – has spoken out against the Heathrow runway plan. She said the government should cancel it, as it risks worsening air quality and increasing noise pollution for thousands. Heathrow and its backers had failed to present a “convincing” enough case for the runway to go ahead. The judgement at the Court of Appeal will be handed down on 27th February, on the legal challenges against the government for its incorrect backing of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). The DfT had failed to properly consider the impact of Heathrow expansion on the the UK’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050, and its Paris Agreement obligations. One of the legal challenges is by Friends of the Earth, who have suggested this legal ruling could be the most important environmental law case in the UK for over a generation.  Boris Johnson is aware that Heathrow cannot meet a range of conditions, on noise, air pollution, cost or carbon.  Adam Afriyie, the Conservative MP for Windsor, said the runway scheme should be scrapped as it was “completely incompatible” with the UK’s legally-binding climate target.



Johnson should cancel Heathrow expansion over air quality fears, former environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, says

Ex-Tory minister urges government to ‘think again’ over go-ahead for third runway

By Ashley Cowburn, Political Correspondent @ashcowburn (Independent)

26th February 2020

Boris Johnson’s government should cancel Heathrow airport expansion as it risks worsening air quality and increasing noise pollution for thousands, the former environment secretary has warned.

Theresa Villiers – a cabinet minister until a fortnight ago – told The Independent that supporters of the multi-billion pound third runway at the west London airport have failed to present a “convincing” enough case for it to go ahead. [She was Sec of State for Environment from July 2019 to 13th Feb 2020 ]

Her remarks come ahead of a critical ruling on the project tomorrow at the Court of Appeal, with anti-Heathrow activists arguing the government has failed to properly consider the impact on the climate.

The environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth have suggested it could be the most important environmental law case in this country for over a generation.

Asked whether Mr Johnson should cancel the expansion, Ms Villiers said: “I’ve made no secret of the fact I would like to see alternatives pursued.

“I think a new runway at Gatwick would have far less of an environmental impact. So yes, I hope the government will think again about Heathrow expansion. I don’t think it is the right way to address capacity needs in the aviation sector.”

Adam Afriyie, the Conservative MP for Windsor, also told The Independent the scheme should be scrapped and said it was “completely incompatible” with the legally-binding target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“With 100 per cent certainty, it would be the right move to make in our national, regional, economic interests and also the interests of Brexit where we want to be competitive with the rest of the world,” he said.

Expansion of the west London airport was given the green light by MPs in 2018 when Theresa May’s administration brought the issue to a vote. But ahead of the parliamentary recess, Mr Johnson, who vowed in 2015 to lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent building work on a third runway, sparked speculation the scheme could be scrapped.

When quizzed on whether he would “make good” on his promise to his constituents, the prime minister told MPs: “I see no bulldozers at present, nor any immediate prospect of them arriving”.

During the reshuffle, Mr Johnson reappointed Zac Goldsmith as an environment minister, who had previously described Heathrow expansion as the “most polluting, most disruptive, most expensive option”.

Conservative MP Greg Hands was also brought back into the government’s ranks as a minister, after resigning in 2018 over a promise to his constituents that he would vote against the airport’s expansion.

Ms Villiers, who was sacked by the prime minister as environment secretary two weeks’ ago, said she had been a “long opponent” of Heathrow.

She added: “Now I’m out of government, I suppose I would particularly highlight my continuing concerns about air quality and there are some really tough challenges in terms of meeting the binding targets we’re subject to on roadside emissions. We are making some real progress on that but I’m concerned that a third runway may make the local situation in relation to air quality considerably worse – not just because of the additional flights but of course the huge potential increase in car journeys.

“I can’t see that Heathrow airport have got a convincing plan that will generate the very major shift onto public transport that they will need to do if they are to have any chance of meeting commitments on air quality.

Heathrow expansion will wreck vows to ‘level up’ UK, economists warn

“It [Heathrow expansion] will subject hundreds of thousands more people to excessive levels of noise. Heathrow is the largest noise emitter in Europe – a third runway will make it considerably worse.”

Asked about Mr Johnson’s recent remarks in the Commons, she said: “The prime minister is well aware of the significant potential environmental impact. He’s set the challenge to the promoters of the scheme to meet those environmental pre-conditions and no doubt the Court of Appeal will be considering those in their judgement tomorrow.”

On Wednesday, the chief executive of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, warned that unless a third runway is built then more passengers and exporters will be forced to use Charles de Gaulle airport in Pairs.

“There’s no global Britain without Heathrow expansion,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. “If we don’t expand our only hub airport, then we’re going to be flying through Paris to get to global markets.

“Our exports will have to go through Paris to get all around the world. We’ll be signing trade deals with India and China and telling them that they can fly through Charles de Gaulle to get to the UK.”



HEATHROW COURT RULING on Thursday 27th February 2020

With the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the legal challenge to the previous Government’s plans for Heathrow expansion, campaigners say that whatever the judge’s verdict, the prospects for the project are fast diminishing.

Parties involved in the action are:

  • The Mayor of London, London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Hammersmith & Fulham, Richmond, Wandsworth, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Greenpeace UK
  • Plan B Earth – an environmental charity
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Heathrow Hub Ltd.

Ahead of the ruling, Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:

“Whatever the Court of Appeal’s view about the last government’s procedures in determining its pro-expansion position, prospects for the project are fast diminishing.

“With government advisers now saying it will mean restrictions on aviation in the regions and that the project’s noise assessments were problematic, the fundamentals have changed. Just as earlier promises have been revealed as misleading, with construction to take 30 years rather than 5, the £14bn budget more than doubling and the CAA having to reprimand the airport for trying to quadruple the pre-application costs presented to MPs. 

“So, we’re reaching the point where support for Heathrow expansion needs to be revisited, if not withdrawn altogether.”


The Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment on Thursday 27th February at 10am (1 & 2).

Parties involved in the action, politicians from all parties and campaigners will gather outside the High Court (Strand, London) from 9am on Thursday for an event supporting those taking action and calling for the Government to now drop Heathrow expansion (3). Politicians include Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green Party.

In recognition of the high-profile nature of the case, the judgment will be live-streamed (4).



  1. Interviews from the No 3rd Runway Coalition available both before and after the judgment, via contact details below.
  2. The judgment will be ‘handed down’ in Court 71 at the High Court, Strand, London, at 10am on Thursday 27th February
  3. Photo opp and visual (peaceful) event at 9.15am sharp.
  4. Live-streaming of the judgment will take place via this link from 10am on Thursday 27th February

For more information, contact: