Letter in Maidenhead Advertiser: Heathrow leaders are pursuing a dead horse

In a letter, published in the Maidenhead Advertiser, a local resident explains the actual effect of the Supreme Court Judgement in December.  The Court ruled that the Airports NPS was legal. But rather than this being a dreadful result for those opposed to a 3rd Heathrow runway, or badly affected by the airport’s noise, it is in fact quite a positive result. The judgement does NOT give the runway permission to go ahead. There is ever more awareness of the need for urgent action on climate change, including by the aviation industry. The government also needs to do more on “levelling up” the country, avoiding putting ever more investment and infrastructure into the south-east. Heathrow expansion would not help with that, and would require constraints on regional airports, or even the closure of some.  The Court also confirmed that any Heathrow planning application (a Development Consent Order, DCO) would need to meet current policies, on issues such as carbon emissions. Financially Heathrow has serious problems with building a 3rd runway.  It has worked over recent years to provide immense dividends to its shareholders – about £4 billion over 8 years. Future air travel demand is uncertain, especially demand for business travel. It should use the post-Covid period to “build back better” and scrap expansion plans.

Heathrow leaders are pursuing a dead horse

Paul Groves’ letter was published in the Maidenhead Advertiser

on 23rd December 2020.

Thank you for your article regarding last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the previous Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling’s decision to recommend a Heathrow third runway was not unlawful.

To those very reasonably opposed to a third runway this might seem a disastrous result, however it will likely in the long-term be very positive.

There are various compelling reasons why Heathrow should not proceed with its expansion plans, which bring another 50 per cent or an additional 700 flights per day over Windsor, Maidenhead, Slough and surrounding areas.

The Supreme Court ruling has spotlit these issues with many recent media articles.

Included are the ever-increasing calls and need for action on climate change, with our council and others declaring for Net Zero by 2050, the Government’s new plan just two weeks ago in the build up to its hosting of the COP26 UN Climate Change conference in November 2021 which has set a target for a 68 per cent reduction in CO2 by 2030, and its own ‘levelling-up’ promise and agenda for Midland and Northern regions.

The Government’s own Climate Change Committee (CCC) just two weeks ago outlined that polluting emissions from aviation must reduce by 80 per cent by 2035, instead of previously by 2050, and that expansion at Heathrow would require constraint and even closing one or more regional airports.

Continuing with Heathrow expansion goes against both the Government’s climate change objectives and ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

Heathrow says that it has a sustainable plan, however that is only for its own buildings, facilities and vehicles, and it conveniently omits the CO2 and noxious gases generated by existing aircraft and an extra 700 planes a day.

Like so many of Heathrow’s promises, this is just hot air and won’t enable us to achieve Net Zero aviation by 2050.

The CCC estimates that bio and sustainable synthetic fuels for aviation will only make up to 25% by 2050.

The Court also confirmed that any Heathrow planning application would need to meet these current objectives, which for the above reasons will not be possible.

Heathrow’s main objectives are its intense pursuit of dividends for foreign shareholders, amounting to £4bn over the last eight years.

Last year Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye took home £2.6m and its 49 directors earned an average of £400k each.

And they want the public to pay for the £550m (twice their £265m budget) that they’ve spent so far just producing and marketing their third runway plans.

We must urgently develop more responsible plans for national aviation and the climate.

Chris Grayling’s Airports National Policy Statement, allowing Heathrow to submit its planning application, was only ever about Heathrow and was based on the 2008 Climate Change Act.

The Government should now replace that statement with a true ‘national’ policy, taking into account the aviation needs of the country as a whole, and within the framework of its new climate and levelling-up objectives.

And Heathrow should stop wasting huge amounts of public money and effort pursuing its dead cause.

COVID-19 has prompted a reassessment of priorities not to live by past standards. Let’s use the opportunity to grow back better.


Local resident (address given)


And a letter from Malcolm Beere, in response to Paul’s letter:

Airport pollutants are not just at ground level

in the Windsor Express


Paul Groves hits over a dozen nails on the head (Viewpoint, December 23) in why Heathrow leaders are pursuing a dead horse in persisting to claim that a third runway is essential to meet aviation’s needs and ensure its ongoing viability.

I am not attacking people’s livelihoods as its current employment needs will grow as the airport gradually recovers in a different world after the COVID crisis.

However the dawning awareness of the worldwide transmission of new contagious viruses coupled with the Government’s highly-publicised commitment to ‘level off’ transport and other services across the nation can only see any future aviation growth in the regions.

The ever-growing housing crisis and over burdened road, rail and health services in the South East are highlighted by the fierce arguments about the Royal Borough and other local plans.

It must be emphasised that these are based on current needs, not guesses about the hugely greater stresses if Heathrow was allowed to double its capacity with another runway.

The densest and multi-storey housing areas have suffered the highest levels of COVID deaths and suffering but even denser and high rise housing with no gardens where land is scarce or costly will generate even higher health and mental risks in the future if the ease of global travel returns in the future.

Housing, costs of living and running a business in the South East are already among the highest in the UK, so while expansion of Heathrow’s goldmine might make sense to its foreign owners, it would have a totally reverse effect upon OUR residents and businesses.

It is absolutely essential the Government’s levelling off commitment includes promotion of regional airports to drastically reduce long distance passenger and goods road traffic but also directly share Heathrow’s worldwide connectivity with the regions.

Heathrow’s astounding promise that it will meet the National Carbon Neutral target long before 2050 totally ignores the enormously poisonous air pollution of all the aircraft which use it!

That is totally unacceptable as every take off creates an enormous volume of exhaust pollution to lift many tonnes of plane and cargo from a ground level standstill to an astounding speed and height in minutes, while reverse thrust engines on landing and loads of brake drum and tyre dust are enormous pollutants – all directly associated with the airport.

While it might be reasonable to assume a shared responsibility with the airlines for half the total pollution of every flight to or from the airport, nobody appears to be responsible for the tonnes of pollutants from every flight or the transport links to and from the airport.

The commitment to plant thousands of trees and create peat bogs to absorb pollutants to offset on site operational activities do not convince many environmentalists as nearby spare land is almost non existent.

Furthermore most of our natural trees lose their leaves in the winter and peat bogs take thousands of years to evolve from decaying vegetable matter in perpetually wet locations.


Chairman, Local Authorities Aircraft Noise Council (LAANC)
Orchard Road, Old Windsor


See earlier:

What does the Supreme Court judgement on Heathrow’s runway plans mean for the campaign to stop the 3rd runway?

A briefing note from the No 3rd Runway Coalition on what comes next, after the Supreme Court judgement (16th December) sets out some key issues. The Coalition says the judgement does NOT give Heathrow the green light; it us simply one hurdle cleared. Expansion faces:  1. Legal challenges. Plan B Earth intends to take proceedings to the European Court of Human Rights, on the danger to future generations from climate change.   2. Government can commit to reviewing the ANPS under Section 6 of the Planning Act 2008. This can refer to all or part of the statement.  The Act enables the Secretary of State to consider any significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any policy in the statement was decided.  It can be argued that the Net Zero commitments, noise, air pollution, assessment of health impacts, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economics provide legitimate reasons for review.  The ANPS could be withdrawn.  3. The DCO process.  Though Heathrow can now proceed to submit an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate, this has to consider current climate obligations, including the UK’s net zero by 2050 target. And Heathrow has been seriously damaged financially by Covid. See the full briefing note.

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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 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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