Good Law project, Dale Vince and George Monbiot start legal proceedings to force Government to suspend & review ANPS

In just months, a Government policy – the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) – that pre-dates the Net Zero commitments in the Climate Change Act. could form the basis for a decision to expand Manston Airport in Kent.  Government has refused to say whether a decision on Heathrow expansion will be made under the ANPS but, with an application for a development consent order (DCO) on Manston imminent, the Good Law project hopes it can force its hand – on Manston and on Heathrow. The ANPS is inconsistent with government commitment to tackle the climate crisis. Though the Supreme Court, in December 2020, ruled that the ANPS was legal, it is necessary for the government to suspend and review it. Now the Good Law project, with Dale Vince and George Monbiot, have issued a pre-action protocol letter to the government legal department, asking for the ANPS to be suspended and reviewed. Not only would proper updating of the ANPS prevent expansion of Manston and Heathrow, it would do the same for others in the pipeline – Southampton, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Stansted and Gatwick. Now government has agreed to include international aviation in carbon budgets, and a 78% cut in UK CO2 emissions by 2035, there is even greater urgency for correct UK aviation policy.


How to stop Heathrow

21.4.2021 (The Good Law Project)

In just months, a Government policy that pre-dates the Net Zero commitments in the Climate Change Act could form the basis for a decision to expand Manston Airport in Kent. Government has refused to say whether a decision on Heathrow expansion will be made under the old policy but, with an application for a development consent order on Manston Airport imminent, we think we can force its hand – on Manston and on Heathrow.

That policy – the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) – is inconsistent with Government’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis. And whilst you might not have heard of Manston Airport, we think the application for a development consent order on Manston gives a chance to force the Government’s hand on a third runway at Heathrow.

For months now, we have been urging Government to live up to its promises to tackle the climate crisis by suspending and reviewing the policy. But Government has dragged its feet, claiming that addressing the Airports National Policy isn’t urgent.

But that’s not good enough. The development of airport infrastructure is continuing, with Southampton Airport the latest example. And so Good Law Project, along with environmentalists Dale Vince and George Monbiot, have taken the first formal step in legal proceedings to force Government to suspend and review the Airports policy. Our Pre-Action Protocol letter can be found here.

Bringing this challenge now, when the Secretary of State is just months away from making a decision on Manston Airport, is the best chance we have of stopping the expansion of Heathrow once and for all. And the best chance to press pause on other environmentally destructive airport projects.

But there’s a further twist in the tale – in the last 48 hours, we have seen reports that the Government is set to make a statutory commitment to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035. The sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate – for the first time – the UK’s share of international aviation emissions in its calculations. While we have not seen the detail just yet, they appear to be positive commitments as we grapple with the defining crisis of our time. What the proposals also do is make the case for reviewing and suspending the ANPS irresistible – the Government can’t reasonably make these commitments without also reviewing and revising a policy that flies in the face of them. We are writing to the Government’s legal team to make sure that their response to our pre-action letter takes these new promises into account. We think there is only one acceptable course of action now.

Government talks a good game when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. But the time for empty promises is over. We are demanding action. If you’re in a position to donate to the legal challenge, you can do so here:

See earlier:


Manston DCO officially quashed – fresh decision from Sec of State only way the freight airport could proceed

Manston airport becoming a freight airport is the first Development Consent Order (DCO) for an airport. The Planning Inspectorate (PI) advised the DfT that plans should be rejected in October 2019. The DfT then wanted more information about the plans, from the airport developers, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP).  In July 2020, Sec of State Grant Shapps, for the DfT decided to ignore the PI’s advice, and allow the DCO. This was then legally challenged by local campaigner, Jenny Dawes, and the challenge was allowed to go ahead, in October 2020. By December the Grant Shapps had agreed that his decision approval letter did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI – so the DCO was quashed. Now on 15th February a High Court judge has ruled that the DCO is quashed.  The Defendant (Secretary of State for Transport) and RSP will pay Jenny Dawes’ “reasonable costs” up to £70,000. Grant Shapps, will now need to issue a renewed decision on the DCO.  If there is another DCO similar to the original, the same arguments against it still stand, based on need, breach of procedural requirements, and the Net Zero carbon duty.  If he decides against another DCO, then RSP may bring another legal challenge, or give up.

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Legal challenges against government – new one by the Good Law Project on aviation and Heathrow

Environmentalists are using the law to force the government to bring infrastructure plans into line with its climate change commitments. There are already legal challenges, on energy and roads. The challenge on road building is by the Transport Action Network, and the energy one is by the Good Law Project.  Now the Good Law Project have started new legal action against the government, to the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). They insist that the ANPS must now be aligned with the Climate Change Act (2008), which is now in force and which demands almost zero emissions by 2050. The ANPS was first written when some believed (wrongly) that airport capacity in south-east England was becoming over-loaded.  Good Law says the strategy should be reviewed due to the likely long-term reduction in business travel due to Covid.  In addition there can be no justification for expanding Heathrow, with the UK’s climate commitments. Boris has been a long term opponent of a Heathrow 3rd runway, so would perhaps welcome a simple – and wise in terms of carbon – way to prevent it, once and for all.  In another legal challenge, Plan B Earth intends to take the Heathrow case to the European Court of Human Rights.


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.”