Supreme Court grants Heathrow and Arora permission to appeal against the Appeal Court ruling on the ANPS

In February, the Appeal Court ruled that the government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal, because it had not taken properly into account the UK’s responsibilities on carbon emissions, or commitments under the Paris Agreement.  For a Heathrow 3rd runway to go ahead, it has to be in line with the necessary policy document, the ANPS. That document is now invalid in law, and will remain so until it is amended to rectify its deficiencies. It is for the Secretary of State for Transport to do that, but the government declined to challenge the Appeal Court judgement. So Heathrow, and Arora Holdings (the two organisations hoping to get a 3rd runway built) asked the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the Appeal Court decision. That has now been granted, by the Supreme Court.  The legal process is slow, and could take as much as a year. It will probably cost a lot of money, at a time when Heathrow is haemorrhaging money, with minimal income, due to Covid. Only a day earlier, CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye admitted there would not be a need for a 3rd runway for 10-15 years.  Heathrow wants this drag on and on and on ….




7th May 2020

Paul McGuinness, Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:

“While we expected the legal process to roll on, because it relates to an important aspect of developing law, we remain confident that this highly disruptive airport’s attempts to expand its operations over the country’s most densely populated region will always fail, whether it be for environmental, political or legal reasons, or any combination of the three.”

  1. Letter from the Supreme Court available here:

For more information, contact Rob Barnstone, 07806 947050 or



See earlier:


Holland-Kaye admits to Transport Committee that Heathrow runway not needed for 10 – 15 years, if things go well

Campaigners are calling for Heathrow to drop its plans for expansion, following comments made by its Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye, to the Transport Select Committee. At the virtual hearing on Wednesday 6th May, he said a 3rd runway wouldn’t be needed for around 10 – 15 years.  Holland-Kaye was asked by Lilian Greenwood MP if the crisis facing the industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had created a hole in the economic case for a third runway at Heathrow. He said he was no longer thinking about the 3rd runway, but that if the UK is able to reboot the economy and demand returns to the pre-pandemic levels of flying, he believes the 3rd runway may “be needed in 10-15 years’ time.”  Nobody can know at present how much air travel demand will recover in the next few years. The No 3rd Runway Coalition are calling on Heathrow  to drop its plans for a third runway with immediate effect. This includes appealing a Court of Appeal ruling which stated climate targets had not been taken into account when the Government prepared the Airports NPS, with plans for Heathrow expansion.

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Fresh indication that the government is not intending to support Heathrow expansion

The No 3rd Runway Coalition believe the Government has given its clearest hint yet that it will not support Heathrow expansion. In reply to a question put by Slough MP Tan Dhesi, the aviation minister, Kelly Tolhurst said that “The Court of Appeal has ruled that the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement has no legal effect unless and until this Government carries out a review”. The fresh use of the word “unless” implies consideration has been given to drop the project altogether.  The DfT also state that they are focussed on responding to Covid-19 at the moment, which presents further evidence that Heathrow expansion has slipped down the agenda. The Government also say that they “are carefully considering the Court of Appeal’s judgment and will set out our next steps in due course”. However, it is unclear how long is meant by “due course”. Heathrow is struggling, with few passengers, probably having to close one or more terminals, due to restrictions on air travel for an unknown period of time, due to Covid-19. A recent review of senior staff at Heathrow shows no longer a role for overseeing expansion. Heathrow now also appears not to be pushing for the “early release” of 25,000 extra flights, as this would depend on the NPS, which has now been deemed to be invalid, by the Courts.

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Heathrow and Arora submit appeal to Supreme Court


This is to try to overcome the Appeal Court ruling that NPS is illegal (not taking climate impacts into account properly).  Heathrow Airport Limited and rival Arora Group, which also wants to build a third runway there, have appealed to the Supreme Court over last month’s ruling that halted the project on environmental grounds.  The Supreme Court must now decide whether to hear the appeal.  If it agrees – and the appeal ultimately succeeds – the project would be back on, having been delayed by at least 12 months.  But if the Supreme Court decides against hearing the appeal, Heathrow will be unable to proceed at all without a major intervention by the Government.  Sources said that Supreme Court justices are likely to expedite the high profile case, meaning a decision on whether to hear the appeal is likely to be issued before the end of this month.  Heathrow Airport and Arora were listed as ‘interested parties’ at the appeal. The Supreme Court will have to decide if their arguments in favour of raising the case before the court are legally sound.

Heathrow expansion blocked by Court of Appeal ruling NPS illegal, for ignoring impact of carbon on UK’s Paris Agreement obligations

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the government’s decision to expand Heathrow was “unlawful”, on climate change grounds. This is one of the most important environmental law cases in this country for over a generation, and ground-breaking for ensuring carbon emissions are properly taken into account. The judgement, which sets a key legal precedent, said the government (Grayling as Sec of State for Transport) had wrongly ignored its international climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement. Such an omission was a fatal flaw to the lawfulness of the National Policy Statement, approving a 3rd Heathrow runway. Grayling had accepted flawed legal advice, implying that there was no need to consider obligations to cut carbon, through the Paris Agreement.  This judgment has vital wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions. From now on, every infrastructure spending decision in the UK could face legal challenge if it doesn’t comply with the Climate Change Act, which mandates virtually zero emissions by 2050. The government has said it will not appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Comment by Hacan on 7th May 2020 on the Supreme Court decision:  

Court grants Heathrow leave to appeal on third runway

Campaign group HACAN, which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, has said that today’s judgement, to grant Heathrow leave to appeal does not mean a third runway is back on track.

Heathrow was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in its bid to overturn the verdict of the Court of Appeal, delivered in February, that the Government had failed to take account of the Paris Agreement on climate change in making its decision to allow Heathrow to start drawing up detailed plans for a third runway (2).

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “Today’s ruling was much as expected.  The surprise would have been if an appeal on an issue as big as this had not been allowed.  What it does not mean is that the third runway is back on track.  Heathrow remains very much on its own as the Government is not backing its appeal.”

Stewart added the post-virus situation adds to the unlikelihood of a third runway ever being built: “There is real uncertainty about future demand as the country emerges from lockdown.  Investors will want to make sure they will get a real return on their money before agreeing to the £14 billion needed for a third runway which could easily rise by the time it goes ahead.”

The court has not given a date when the appeal will be heard.

The Government has said it will abide by the decision on the Supreme Court.  If Heathrow wins it will be able to resume drawing up its plans for a third runway to be presented to a Public Inquiry, probably within the next two years.  The Government, though, would have the final say as it would need to endorse or overrule the recommendation of the planning inspectors.