“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.
“Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain”: Friends of the Earth reacts as Supreme Court rules on policy allowing third runway
16th December 2020
Friends of the Earth press release.
Friends of the Earth was one of the two organisations that took that legal challenge to the Appeal Court. Heathrow took the rejection by the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court.
• Judgment is no ‘green light’ for expansion. 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 third runway
• Government has been recently warned by its own advisers against net airport expansion
• Green jobs, low-carbon travel and the health and wellbeing of everyone must be government priority for 2021 and beyond
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government policy supporting expansion of Heathrow Airport is lawful, overturning Friends of the Earth’s historic legal victory against the third runway earlier this year. But the expansion of Heathrow Airport remains far from certain. Friends of the Earth will continue to challenge the third runway project in the planning arena. Read full legal briefing here
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.
“With ever stronger climate policy commitments that Heathrow must meet, it remains unlikely it will ever get planning permission for the third runway. Friends of the Earth will fight it all the way. We are in this for people everywhere facing climate breakdown right now, and for the next generation who are being left to inherit a world changed for the worse.”
Jenny Bates, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
“With global temperatures soaring, communities in the UK and around the world being displaced, and our ecological system on the brink of collapse, the last thing we need is to fill the skies with more planes. Last week the government was even warned by its own advisers at the Committee on Climate Change that there can be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the aviation industry achieves unexpectedly fast emissions cuts. Given this warning, it is hard to see how Heathrow expansion can proceed. Boris Johnson must re-think the decision to approve the policy supporting expansion of Heathrow airport, and commit to no net airport expansion in-line with the advice of independent advisors, the Committee on Climate Change.
“The UK has the potential to lead the world in ambitious climate action but only if the government takes this opportunity to steer the country to a sustainable future, making green jobs, low-carbon travel and the health and wellbeing of all of us a priority. 2021 will be a key year for this, when the eyes of the world turn to the UK as host of UN climate talks.”
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:
“Our client can be extremely proud of what it has achieved for the environment, as we welcome the Supreme Court ruling that any future Government decision under the Airports National Policy Statement to grant development consent for the third runway at Heathrow must be made in accordance with the obligations under the Paris Agreement and the carbon reduction targets in place at that time.
“Given those 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 by the Committee on Climate Change that, in order to meet Net Zero Target, there should be no net increase in airport capacity, this judgment represents a huge advancement in our client’s continuing battle against the third runway and the climate catastrophe facing the world.”
The Supreme Court allowed Heathrow’s appeal and reversed the Court of Appeal ruling.
In relation to Friends of the Earth’s grounds, the Supreme Court has held that the Secretary of State had a broad discretion on what to consider as part of climate change and sustainable development in relation to the section 10 duty under the Planning Act 2008, and whether and how far it should consider the Paris Agreement. As such, the Secretary of State acted rationally in the way it had made its decision.
For more information contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 / 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text this number) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the Leigh Day press office call 0161 393 3547 or email email@example.com
Notes to editors:
1. Friends of the Earth were represented by law firm Leigh Day and barristers David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers, Peter Lockley of 11 Kings Bench Walk Chambers and Andrew Parkinson of Landmark Chambers.
2. Brief legal history:
a. The High Court ruled on 1 May 2019 that the government’s decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport was lawful. This followed legal challenges brought by a number of environmental NGOs, pressure groups and local councils which were heard collectively by the court in March 2019.
b. In October 2019 The Court of Appeal heard Friends of the Earth’s appeal against the High Court’s decision that the government had not breached its sustainable development duties by allowing the expansion of Heathrow.
c. Environmental group Friends of the Earth brought one of the two successful legal challenges in the proceedings, focusing on the climate change and sustainable development impacts of a third runway.
d. Friends of the Earth successfully argued that the decision to make the ANPS breached the Secretary of State for Transport’s sustainable development duty in failing to have regard to the desirability of mitigating climate change for future generations. This was specifically due to: not considering the UN’s Paris Agreement, nor climate impacts of the project beyond 2050 when the lifetime of the project is expected to run until 2085, and also the failure to factor in any impact from the non-CO2 contribution of aviation to climate breakdown, in breach of the precautionary principle.
3. Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: friendsoftheearth.uk follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.
Friends of the Earth are asking people to sign their petition to Boris Johnson, to ask that he scraps plans for Heathrow expansion
Friends of the Earth are asking people to sign their petition on this.
PS. Do you remember when Boris Johnson said, “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that third runway”? We know the prime minister’s not always stuck rigidly to his word. But the quote shows he’s not entirely sold on Heathrow expansion. That’s another reason to keep the pressure up so please sign the petition.
Comment from the No 3rd Runway Coalition:
Paul McGuinness from the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said before the court ruling that a decision in favour of Heathrow wouldn’t change the underlying case against the proposed runway.
He argued: “Heathrow expansion can’t proceed. Putting aside investors’ lack of appetite to find new money – even to maintain the airport as a going concern through the pandemic – expanding Heathrow no longer ticks any boxes.
“Since the Airports Commission recommended Heathrow expansion, five years ago, the world has changed and the assessments on noise, air quality and carbon have been exposed as inadequate.”
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.”
Comment by the Richmond Heathrow campaign:
Heathrow Third Runway Appeal Upheld … but reprieve disguises impossible plan
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.