Government will not review the Airports National Policy Statement, on any of the challenge grounds

The Government had the option of reviewing the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) after the legal challenges, which took place during 2019 and 2020. One key issue of the challenges was the impact on the UK’s climate targets of allowing Heathrow to increase its carbon emissions by up to 50%. Now the DfT has decided it will not review the ANPS, so it continues to be the underlying policy through which Heathrow could expand. The airport still has to go through the Development Consent Order (DCO) process, to get approval for a 3rd runway.  Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary of State, says that even though the UK now has a target of 78% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2035 and international aviation should be included in that target (compared to 1990 levels) and “considers that it is not possible to conclude properly that any of the policy set out in the ANPS would have been materially different had these circumstances been anticipated at the time of designation [June 2018].” The overall impact of Heathrow expansion, combined with expansion of other airports, will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate at the DCO stage.  It appears an opportunity to reduce UK aviation CO2 emissions has been missed, and government will do as little as possible on the issue.



Part of the letter sent by the DfT to people who had asked for the ANPS to be reviewed in the light of changes to climate policy since 2018.

Dear xx


I am writing to you as an individual or organisation that has requested that the
Secretary of State for Transport review the Airports National Policy Statement
(“ANPS”) under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008. The Secretary of State has
carefully considered all review requests in accordance with the requirements of
the Planning Act 2008 and this letter communicates his decision. Having taken
account of the factors in section 6(3) and (4) of the Planning Act 2008 and the
section 10(2) objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable
development (and in particular the desirability of mitigating and adapting to
climate change – see section 10(3)), the Secretary of State has decided that it
is not appropriate to review the ANPS at this time.

As to the main matters raised in the review requests:

Climate change

The Secretary of State has decided that it is not appropriate to review the ANPS
on the basis of climate change or carbon policy at this time. He considers that
changes to HM Government’s and the Climate Change Committee’s position on
climate change (including the target of net zero by 2050 now enshrined in the
revised Climate Change Act 2008, the CCC’s aviation specific advice following
its report on net zero, the announcement by the Government that it would target
a 68% reduction in UK emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels pursuant to
Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, and the inclusion of international aviation
emissions in the sixth carbon budget and its target to reduce emissions by 78%
by 2035 compared to 1990 levels), as well as Parliament’s declaration of a
“climate emergency”, represent a significant and unforeseen change in
circumstances that was not anticipated at the time of designation of the ANPS.
However, he considers that it is not possible to conclude properly that any of the policy set out in the ANPS would have been materially different had these
circumstances been anticipated at the time of designation.

He considers that the question of whether or not to review the ANPS should be
considered again after the Government’s Jet Zero Strategy (“JZS”) has been
finalised following a consultation which was launched on 14 July 2021. This sets
out proposed policies that will be needed for aviation to meet net zero emissions
by 2050. These policies will influence the level of aviation emissions the sector
can emit and the cost of flying in the future, both of which are relevant to
considering whether any of the policy set out in the ANPS would have been
materially different had these circumstances been anticipated at the time of
designation. The timing of any re-consideration of the appropriateness of
whether to review the ANPS after the JZS is finalised will need to have regard
to the availability of long-term aviation demand forecasts at that stage.


more topics …. and….

Cumulative impact of growth at other airports

The Secretary of State does consider the impact of other airport growth
proposals to be a significant change in circumstances on the basis of which
policy set out in the ANPS was decided. However, the growth of other airports
was foreseen.
The Airports Commission’s Final Report recognised the need for an additional
runway in the South East by 2030 but also noted that there would be a need for
other airports to make more intensive use of their existing infrastructure. In June
2018 the Department published its policy ‘Beyond the horizon: The future of UK
aviation – Making best use of existing runways’ (MBU), which set out its support
for airports making best use of their existing runways across the whole of the

Airport development proposals under MBU are taken forward under the Town
and Country Planning Act 1990 or the Planning Act 2008. As part of any planning
applications airports will need to demonstrate how they will mitigate local
environmental issues, in consultation with local communities. The ANPS
requires that an applicant for a Northwest Runway scheme includes an
assessment of cumulative impacts in its application, which will be considered by
the Examining Authority. The applicant will, therefore, be required to consider
the cumulative effects of any relevant plans in place at the time it makes its
application. This will then be appropriately considered by the Planning
Inspectorate and the relevant decision-making Minister.

No other matters

The Secretary of State has concluded that no other matters have been identified,
whether raised by persons requesting a review or otherwise, which cause him
to think it appropriate to review the ANPS at present. Overall, none of the
matters raised make it appropriate to review the ANPS now, when assessed
either individually or cumulatively. As mentioned above, this conclusion is also
made taking into account the section 10(2) obligation of contributing to the
achievement of sustainable development, and in particular the desirability of
mitigating and adapting to climate change (see section 10(3)).

Next steps

The Government and the Secretary of State recognise the importance of having
up to date National Policy Statements to maintain the integrity of the Nationally
Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. The Secretary of State takes seriously
his duty to consider whether it is appropriate to review the ANPS and will
continue to consider whether it is appropriate to do so in line with the
requirements of the Planning Act 2008.

The details of the Secretary of State’s decision are being published on the
Department’s website and are being provided to Heathrow Airport Limited and
to Heathrow West Limited as interested parties.

Yours sincerely,

Authorised signatory on behalf of Secretary of State for Transport

Removal of climate change hurdle clears way for third Heathrow runway

By Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent (The Times)
September 7 2021

A barrier to the expansion of Heathrow was cleared yesterday when the government refused to review its decision to give the green light to a third runway.

Ministers have faced pressure to scrap approval for a two-mile runway at the airport, which was granted in 2018, because of escalating concerns about climate change. Last year the Court of Appeal ruled that the government’s backing for the Heathrow plan was unlawful because it failed to take account of commitments to limit rises in global temperatures. This was overturned by the Supreme Court in December but the government still faced calls to review its entire policy on airport expansion.

However, in a letter published yesterday, the Department for Transport confirmed that it had rejected the possibility of reassessing the airports national policy statement (ANPS), saying it was not appropriate at this time. It acknowledged that there had been a “significant and unforeseen change” in the government’s position on climate change since the decision was taken in 2018, including the introduction of a legally binding target to cut carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050.

It said there was no evidence that the policy “would have been materially different” even if these additional commitments had been known about in 2018 when the ANPS was tabled.

It said that a decision on the policy would be “considered again” as part of a further review of the government’s aviation reforms in the coming years.

In effect the move gives Heathrow the green light to proceed with the planning process for a new runway northwest of the airport.

Boris Johnson is a longstanding opponent of a third runway and it was thought that any review of the policy would have scuppered the plans. Yesterday’s decision was made as the government also announced that it was scrapping an independent aviation noise watchdog set up after the decision in 2018 to crack down on noisy planes. The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) had been established to ensure that the needs of communities were taken into account in any decision to expand airports.

However, in a written statement published yesterday, Robert Courts, the aviation minister, said its functions “would be more efficiently performed” by the existing aviation watchdog, the Civil Aviation Authority. ICCAN will be scrapped by the end of this month.

The decisions were condemned by environmental groups. Paul McGuinness of the No Third Runway Coalition said the government had “squandered this opportunity to abandon Heathrow expansion, once and for all”.

Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said that the prime minister was becoming an “apologist for the aviation industry”.

Heathrow’s new runway is intended to boost its overall capacity by 50 per cent, allowing it to handle up to 280,000 extra flights a year. It originally planned to open it by the middle of this decade but the time frame was blown off course by the court challenge, coupled with the pandemic.

Heathrow still has to apply for a development consent order (DCO) — planning permission for major infrastructure — which would be subjected to a review by planning officials. The transport secretary would be given the final decision on whether to proceed.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said: “Although we are currently focused on the safe restart of international travel and the airport’s recovery, demand will return and the UK’s hub capacity will once again become constrained.”


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. 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.


Heathrow Airport expansion: Supreme Court Appeal hearing on the ANPS. Briefing by Friends of the Earth

The hearing at the Supreme Court of the appeal by Heathrow against the judgement of the Appeal Court, in February took place on 7th and 8th October.  The case is whether the Airports NPS (ANPS) is illegal, because it did not properly consider carbon emissions and the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Friends of the Earth have explained their arguments, against those of Heathrow. (It is complicated legal stuff …) There is no onward appeal from the Supreme Court.  If any one of the grounds that won in the Court of Appeal remains, and the Supreme Court agrees that the Order made by the Appeal Court should still stand, then the ANPS will remain of no legal effect [ie. not valid or legal] until reviewed. [So the runway cannot go ahead]. The Secretary of State (SoS) for Transport must then consider if the government wish to leave it at that, or review the ANPS policy framework, to amend it. If the SoS does that, s/he will probably need to make changes that materially alter what the ANPS says. Such changes will need to be approved by Parliament following consultation, before the new ANPS can come into force. And if the FoE Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) challenge wins, there would need to be a new SEA and a new public consultation.