28 Feb 2020
Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could now be in doubt – if the landmark Heathrow climate case can be used against it
The ruling on Heathrow’s 3rd runway on 27th February, by the Court of Appeal, put the scheme seriously in doubt – on the grounds of its carbon emissions. The DfT had decided not to take proper account of the extra carbon emissions, in relation to the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, when it produced the Airports National Policy Statement . The ruling is ground-breaking, because it sets a global precedent that can now be used to challenge other developments which damage the environment. The expansion plans of Leeds Bradford would result in a possible increase in passengers from about 4 million per year now to about 7 million. This means the plans are not considered large enough to require the National Policy Statement and DCO route. Instead the application goes through the usual planning process. So the Heathrow ruling may not have a direct bearing on this case, though the principle of the need to properly account for carbon emissions from new developments, may be used to argue against it if it went to appeal. Leeds has declared a climate emergency, and its local Citizens’ Assembly resolved that the airport should not expand, due to its carbon emissions.
Major Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could now be in doubt – what landmark Heathrow case means for LBA
Friends of the Earth say the decision “sets a global precedent” for using the Paris Agreement to challenge developments which damage the environment
4th March 2020
By Nathan Hyde (Leeds Live)
Environmentalists are celebrating after the Court of Appeal threw plans for a third Heathrow runway into doubt with a landmark ruling.
The court ruled that the government’s legal framework for the Heathrow expansion was “produced unlawfully” because it failed take into account climate change commitments set out in the Paris Agreement.
It is the first major court ruling in the world to be based on the international agreement, which aims to limit the increase of global temperatures to 1.5°C.
Friends of the Earth, which challenged the expansion in the court, says the ruling is “an absolutely ground-breaking result for climate justice” and it “sets a global precedent” for using the Paris Agreement to challenge developments which damage the environment.
While Magdalena Heuwieser, from the campaign group Stay Grounded, told The Guardian the decision “gives hope to hundreds of communities around the world in their struggles against destructive airport projects”.The decision has not completely killed plans for the £14bn runway, which could be used by around 700 planes a day.
Airport bosses are planning to appeal and even though the government says it won’t challenge the decision and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been an outspoken objector for years, it could draw up a new framework for the project.
The ruling states the court “have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow” and the government “now have the opportunity to reconsider” their current framework, which is known as Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS).
This ruling cannot be used to stop the controversial expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport, which is looking to build a new £150 million terminal and increase passenger numbers to 7 million by 2030.
The people in charge of Leeds Bradford Airport have applied for planning permission to build the new terminal and Leeds City Council councillors will probably approve that if it is in accordance with a different framework, known as the National Planning Policy framework.
When the airport was granted permission to extend and refurbish the current terminal building in 2018, that was approved as it was deemed to be an “acceptable scheme in accordance with the National Planning Policy framework”.
Councillors in Leeds will have to carefully consider the planning application for a new terminal at Leeds Bradford Airport when it is submitted and there will be plenty of objections from some environmentalists, including those who staged a demonstration in the council officers when the plans were first discussed.
They will also consider the environmental impact of the new building and the increase in pollution that extra flights will bring.
The Labour-run council has declared a climate emergency and councillors are asked to factor that into their decision making with each and every planning application.
They have also been told by climate scientists from University of Leeds that the expansion will result in a dramatic increase in harmful emissions and ruin the city’s chance of hitting its ambitious carbon reduction targets.
However, councillors will be expected to make a decision on the Leeds Bradford Airport plans using the National Planning Policy Framework, which says there should be a presumption in favour of development.
And if they abandon the framework, they will be required to provide “clear and convincing reasons for doing so”, otherwise the decision will be overturned on appeal.
The council has also drawn up plans for a new train station near the airport and this seems to suggest that it wants the airport to expand.
Councillor Don Davies, leader of North Somerset Council, said: “What the committee has considered is that the detrimental effect of the expansion of the airport on this area and the wider impact on the environment outweighs the narrower benefits to airport expansion.”
Environmentalists hope Leeds City Council and other councils around the country will follow the example set by North Somerset Council, but they also know the decision could be overturned at a public enquiry.
See also details from Friends of the Earth, about their legal victory in the challenges against Heathrow:
By Katie de Kauwe (Friends of the Earth)
Heathrow appeal: the result
The government’s policy giving the green light to Heathrow expansion (set to be one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects) and establishing the need for more airport capacity in the south east has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal on climate grounds. The ruling follows years of work by the legal team at Friends of the Earth (myself included), along with our external solicitors at Leigh Day, and our barristers (David Wolfe QC at Matrix Chambers, Peter Lockley at 11KBW and Andrew Parkinson at Landmark Chambers).
In the year that the UK is to host vital UN climate talks, the court accepted our submissions that:
- The Secretary of State for Transport (at the time Chris Grayling) failed to consider important climate factors in the decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, already one of the biggest single sources of carbon emissions in the UK.
- Specifically, the Secretary of State should have taken into account the Paris Climate Agreement, the non-CO2 warming impacts of Heathrow expansion, and the climate impacts of the project beyond 2050.
- The Secretary of State also breached their duty to undertake a lawful strategic environmental assessment (in accordance with legal requirements).
This ruling shows that government has systematically and illegally failed to consider its obligations under the Paris Agreement in producing their Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS) and their decision to support a third runway at Heathrow. The Court of Appeal has declared the adoption of the ANPS as unlawful and ruled that it ceases to have any legal effect (until such time as the government conducts a review to correct the legal errors identified by the Court in relation to climate). The Secretary of State was also ordered to pay our legal costs.
With the ANPS deemed unlawful, there will be no third runway at Heathrow as currently set out.
The Court of Appeal also rejected the applications for permission to appeal made by 2 developers: Heathrow Airport Limited and Arora Holdings Limited. That means their only option is to apply for permission to the Supreme Court, but the Secretary of State is not challenging the decision, and this undermines the developers’ position considerably. We’re prepared to fight on to the Supreme Court if needs be, but the Supreme Court may not even grant the developers permission to appeal.
What does the Heathrow ruling mean for other projects?
This historic judgement has implications way beyond Heathrow airport.
The Court did not constrain its findings on the relevance of Paris, non-CO2 impacts and post-2050 climate impacts to decisions under the Planning Act which is incredibly exciting, as it means those arguments could be relevant to other decisions on aviation, and beyond.
Just a few weeks ago (in January 2020), Bristol councillors refused an application for airport expansion. If the developer appeals, then the relevance of Paris and non-CO2 climate impacts may need to be factored into the decision, increasing the chance that the appeal will fail.
And it’s not just aviation that these arguments could apply to. Following this judgment, Paris will need to be considered whenever a National Policy Statement is created or reviewed, and we think it will be relevant to decisions on big pieces of carbon-intensive infrastructure, such as energy projects.
For example, a challenge is currently being brought by legal charity ClientEarth in respect to the Drax gas power plant, which the government wants to build in Selby, North Yorkshire. This would be the largest gas power plant in Europe, and we think the Heathrow ruling could have clear implications for this case too. We’ve already been in touch with ClientEarth to offer our support.
We also think that Town and Country Planning projects could be impacted – such as a proposed coal development at Druridge Bay. The Secretary of State previously refused permission for the development to go ahead on climate change grounds, but this was successfully challenged by the developer and the High Court ruled that the Secretary of State had not set out their reasons adequately. Following the Heathrow victory, we think that Paris could be relevant to the Druridge decision too, strengthening the climate argument against coal.