Heathrow appeal upheld … but reprieve disguises impossibility of 3rd runway plan

Commenting on the judgement by the Supreme Court today, upholding Heathrow’s appeal that the Airports NPS is legal, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign said the world has changed a lot since 2018. This is not least because of Covid-19. Climate change is the greatest risk to demand and last week the Climate Change Committee’s advice on the 6th Carbon Budget emphasised no net increase in UK airport capacity and that an increase at one airport means a reduction elsewhere – in other words levelling down (not up) the regions.  If Heathrow Airport Limited still wants a 3rd runway it will have to restart the already delayed planning process with diminishing chance of success. The pandemic has highlighted Heathrow’s lack of financial resilience and the improbability of raising finance for very expensive expansion in the face of demand constrained by climate risk. Heathrow should not waste billions of pounds on ill-judged expansion. Surely shareholders don’t want to replace a steady cash flow with the enormous project and financial risk from expansion under the evolving circumstances? 
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Heathrow Third Runway Appeal Upheld … but reprieve disguises impossible plan

16.12.2020

Comment by the Richmond Heathrow campaign

The Supreme Court today upheld Heathrow’s appeal and concluded that the Transport Secretary was entitled in 2018 to ignore the UK’s climate change commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and that the decision to progress Heathrow’s expansion to the planning stage is lawful.

Nevertheless, there were always major gaps in the arguments for Heathrow’s third runway and the world has changed so much since 2018, not least because of Covid-19. Climate change is the greatest risk to demand and last week the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget emphasised no net increase in UK airport capacity and that an increase at one airport means a reduction elsewhere – in other words levelling down the regions. Bio-fuels and carbon removal from the atmosphere are only partial solutions and demand will have to be constrained to achieve aviation’s net zero carbon.

If Heathrow Airport Limited still wants a 3rd runway it will have to restart the already delayed planning process with diminishing chance of success. The pandemic has highlighted Heathrow’s lack of financial resilience and the improbability of raising finance for very expensive expansion in the face of demand constrained by climate risk. Heathrow should not waste billions of pounds on ill-judged expansion. Surely shareholders don’t want to replace a steady cash flow with the enormous project and financial risk from expansion under the evolving circumstances?

HeathrowAirport Limited should give up what is an impossible ambition and focus on the substantial opportunity of making Heathrow a better airport and indeed re-enforcing London as the best served city in the world with its five airports.

Better surface access, more passengers per flight and replacement of international-to-international transfer passengers with UK passengers would be a good start. Reduced carbon, air pollution and noise, including no night flights, are essential. Sharing the recovery and subsequent expansion of air traffic across UK airports, instead of concentration at Heathrow, would be of great benefit for the UK generally, not only in levelling up regional jobs and economies but in better serving demand and world-wide access.

More than two million people, including Richmond and Kew residents, are exposed to Heathrow’s aircraft noise and attendant health risk but worse still they have experienced the threat of expansion for over a decade. Heathrow and the government should abandon a further decade of expansion and flight path uncertainty and focus on reducing existing noise misery. Residents now know how much better life can be without aircraft noise.

One certainty is that the opposition to Heathrow’s expansion from community groups such as Richmond Heathrow Campaign, NGOs and local councils is stronger today than ever with the environment playing a much bigger part in society’s goals. And the government recognises this with its emphasis on climate change, noise and air pollution in its recent National Infrastructure Strategy and its hosting of the UN Climate Change conference in November.

RHC represents three amenity groups in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames: The Richmond Society, The Friends of Richmond Green, and the Kew Society, which together have over 2000 members.

https://www.richmondheathrowcampaign.org/


See earlier:

 

“Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain”: Friends of the Earth reacts as Supreme Court rules on policy allowing third runway

Friends of the Earth UK (FoE) was one of the organisations that took their challenge of the High Court decision on Heathrow expansion, and the Airports NPS (ANPS), to the Court of Appeal.  Heathrow took that judgement, that the ANPS was illegal (of no legal effect) to the Supreme Court, which has now ruled that the ANPS is valid and legal.  Friends of the Earth say the judgement is “not a ‘green light’ for a 3rd Heathrow runway. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage, where Friends of the Earth will continue the challenge against a 3rd runway.  In addition, the Government has been recently warned by its own advisers (the CCC) against net airport expansion.” FoE also say green jobs, low-carbon travel and the health and wellbeing of everyone must be government priority for 2021 and beyond.  A 3rd runway is far from certain, with many chances to block it in the planning stages. The UK’s obligations and targets have become much more challenging since the ANPS was designated and are only expected to get tougher, especially in light of the advice last week by the Committee on Climate Change that, in order to meet Net Zero Target, there should be no net increase in airport capacity.

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Supreme Court rules that the Airports NPS is legal; climate issues of a Heathrow runway would have to be decided at the DCO stage

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Airports NPS is lawful. In February 2020 the Appeal Court had ruled that it was not, on climate grounds. The ANPS is the national policy framework which governs the construction of a Heathrow 3rd runway.  Any future application for development consent to build this runway will be considered against the policy framework in the ANPS. The ANPS does not grant development consent in its own right. The Supreme Court rejected the legal challenges by Friends of the Earth, and Plan B Earth, that the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, had not taken climate properly into account, nor the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. These are tricky points of law, and definition of the term “government policy” rather than the reality of climate policy.  Heathrow is now able to continue with plans to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) which is the planning stage of the runway scheme.The Supreme Court said at the DCO stage, Heathrow would have to show “that the development would be compatible with the up-to-date requirements under the Paris Agreement and the CCA 2008 measures as revised to take account of those requirements” and “The Court further holds that future applications [for the runway] will be assessed against the emissions targets and environmental policies in force at that later date rather than those set out in the ANPS.”

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Heathrow opponents vow third runway won’t see ‘light of day’ as judges rule work can move ahead

Green campaigners will continue to fight any proposed airport expansion after the Supreme Court ruled it can move ahead

By Emma Gatten,  ENVIRONMENT EDITOR  (The Telegraph)
16 December 2020

Heathrow Airport’s third runway is unlikely to go ahead despite a Supreme Court ruling that it can proceed, campaigners have said, amid a lack of enthusiasm from Government and a downturn in demand because of Covid-19

The Supreme Court yesterday overturned a ruling by the Court of Appeal that Chris Grayling, then transport secretary, acted unlawfully when he gave the green light for the project in 2018.

The decision means the £14bn runway project can now move to the planning process, where it is likely to face new challenges on climate change, air pollution and economic grounds.

The decision is a setback for environmental campaigners who had hoped the February decision by the Court of Appeal had effectively killed the runway project.

Friends of the Earth, who brought the legal challenge, had argued that Mr Grayling had failed to take the Government’s climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement into consideration.

The Supreme Court said Mr Grayling had broad discretion on what to consider on climate change grounds, and had acted lawfully in his decision.

The Government and developer Arora Holdings decided not to pursue the legal case any further following the earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Boris Johnson has personally opposed construction of the airport in the past, in 2015 vowing to lie down in front of bullozers, and in February raised doubts over whether the project would meet environmental standards.

Since the decision was made, the Government has set a new legally binding climate change target to become net zero by 2050 and air travel demand has plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye said the airport expansion would be dependent on the economic recovery within the next ‘10-15’ years.

But on Wednesday, Heathrow vowed to pursue the expansion. A spokesperson said the decision was “the right result for the country.”

“Demand for aviation will recover from Covid, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany,” the statement said.

“Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.” [Often what an airport means about being net-zero etc is in its own buildings and operations; it regards the carbon emissions of the airlines, facilitated by the existence of the airport, as being their problem.  Nothing to do with the airport ….]

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “This judgment is no ‘green light’ for expansion.

“It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage.

“Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain and we now look forward to stopping the third runway in the planning arena.”

John Stewart, who chairs anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: “Despite this verdict, there remains real doubt about whether the third runway will ever see the light of day.

“Recovery is all that is on Heathrow’s mind right now. Flight numbers are down nearly 90 per cent. The airport’s expansion team has long since been disbanded.

“A third runway remains no more than a distant and uncertain prospect.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/16/heathrow-airport-third-runway-can-go-ahead-supreme-court-rules/

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