Letter to DfT: The Airports National Policy Statement should now be withdrawn, as it is out of date

The Supreme Court ruled, on December 16th, that the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was legal. The ANPS is the policy document necessary to Heathrow to proceed with plans for a 3rd runway. But the Court ruling does NOT give the runway consent. The government did not challenge the earlier ruling, in February, by the Appeal Court. The ANPS was written around 2017-18 and approved in Parliament in June 2018. Since then, life has moved on, and it is very out of date. The economics of the situation have changed; awareness of the climate implications of a runway is hugely greater; the Committee on Climate Change has given its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget, and that aviation growth has to be constrained; knowledge has increased about the health impacts of air pollution from aircraft; and now Covid has reduced demand for air travel, which may never recover to its 2019 level.  Neil Spurrier, from the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has written to the DfT to ask that the ANPS is now withdrawn. He says the ANPS “is now completely out of date and should be withdrawn. I request that this is done pursuant to a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 …”   See Neil’s full letter.


Neil Spurrier’s letter to the Department for Transport


18th December 2020

Your Ref: HP19/006


Letter to

Jack Goodwin
Deputy Director,
Airports and Infrastructure Directorate
Department for Transport
Great Minster House,
33 Horseferry Rd,
London SW1P 4DR

Dear Mr Goodwin,

Section 6 Planning Act 2008. Request for Review of Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England

I am writing following the judgment of the Supreme Court restoring the Airports
National Policy Statement and your acknowledgment dated the 28th November
2019 to my request dated the 18th October 2019 for a review of this national
policy statement.

I would be grateful please if my request for review dated the 18th October 2019
(copy attached) could now be considered and a response given. There are some
additions to the request that have arisen over the time of the court cases.

The letter of request of the 18th October is still applicable but the additions are:

1. Firstly, we have just had the verdict of the coroner in the case of the young girl, Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died as a result of air pollution. Air quality is below the required quality in London and this is due in part to overflying aircraft. I have given you details of subsequent research showing the extent of air pollution from aircraft flying in and out of Heathrow that affects air quality – quite different to the evidence produced by the DfT and Heathrow previously. There is also the research work of the Centre for Environment and Health, Environmental Research Group, King’s College London, published in February 2020 and available online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016041201931832X,
showing the spread of ultra-fine particulates over London from overflying aircraft; again quite different to the evidence given by the DfT in the Appraisal of Sustainability. One of the illustrations of the findings of King’s College London in their report with respect to London shows the pollution occasioned by blowing downwind and is replicated below:

2. Secondly, the Committee on Climate Change has advised that the Government should commit to UK international aviation reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, and UK domestic and military aviation potentially earlier. The Committee has also advised that we should achieve an emissions reduction towards the Net Zero target of 78% in CO2 emissions over 1990 levels by 2035, and that this should be legislated for by June 2021 (https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/ourexpertise/advice-on-reducing-the-uks-emissions/ ). On the 3rd December 2020 Lord Deben chair of the Committee on Climate Change published his
advice to the Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy that the Committee recommends that that the UK commits to reduce territorial emissions by at least 68% from 1990 to 2030, as part of the UK’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the UN process, with the addition of the words “We encourage the Prime Minister to make a 2030 commitment that is as bold as possible, to inspire other world leaders to follow suit. As such, the Government may choose to go beyond a 68% reduction”. None of this will be possible with the expansion of Heathrow envisaged by the Airports National Policy

3. Thirdly, the Committee on Climate Change has provided its very extensive report on the 6th Carbon Budget. On aviation the Committee recommend that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand. In producing this
recommendation, the Committee has produced a number of scenarios, finding that the “Baseline” of the Government will not yield sufficient savings in CO2 to obtain net zero by 2050. Baseline will use some 205 terawatt hours of energy for aviation, compared with the “Balanced Net Zero Pathway”, using under half of this at 94 TWh. The Balanced Net Zero
Pathway is the maximum recommended level of emissions and assumes no airport expansion and an energy fuel efficiency improvement of 1.4% per year – pretty ambitious as aircraft are not going to be replaced every year. The previous aviation predictions for Baseline were based upon an improvement of just 0.7%. The Balanced Net Zero Pathway scenario may not be enough, and the Committee produce various other scenarios, some
of which require a flight demand reduction of 15%, together with a much higher use of biomass or synthetic fuels. One of these scenarios has been named “Tailwinds” which requires “a reduction in demand, high efficiency, and the maximal resource allocations for the biojet and synthetic jet fuel from the other scenarios”. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Balanced Net Zero pathway can or will be improved upon in practice, if Heathrow expansion goes ahead. Baseline is not even being met at present. Therefore, the inevitable question, that should be asked of the government, is that if Heathrow (or any other airport in the south east) were to expand, which regional airport(s) would the Government plan to
close (contrary to the Government’s declared “levelling up” policy) in order to make up the greenhouse gas reduction required? In addition, what will be the effect on the economy of that region? I would respectfully suggest that such a possibility is not something contemplated by the Airports National Policy Statement.

4. Fourthly, we have demand which I addressed in the original request, the
increase of which is now an unknown. Indeed, demand may never recover to the 2019 levels. One thing that is as certain as can be is that demand is unlikely to increase to 2019 for at least three years if it does so at all.

5. Fifthly, to allow the expansion of Heathrow without a clearly stated corresponding reduction in capacity elsewhere in breach of the advice of the Committee on Climate Change in its Sixth carbon budget would give a catastrophically bad impression to the world with the UK hosting the COP26 climate change conference in November 2021.

Due to the above and also to the matters raised in my previous letter of the 18th October 2019, I respectfully suggest on behalf of myself and the members of the Teddington action group that there have been significant changes in the circumstances of the policies set out in the Airports National Policy Statement. The Airports National Policy Statement is now completely out of date and should be withdrawn. I request that this is done pursuant to a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 as well as a statement set out in paragraph 1.21 of the Airports National Policy Statement.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully.

Neil Spurrier

See earlier:


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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