Heathrow ruling brings dilemma for Johnson


The Supreme Court has ruled that ministers were entitled to back the expansion of Heathrow Airport, overturning a Court of Appeal decision earlier this year that would have blocked the third runway.

However, campaigners have warned that the judgement is not a ‘green light for expansion’.

The Court of Appeal ruled in February that the transport secretary (Chris Grayling at the time) was wrong to designate the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), including because he had failed to consider the Paris Agreement on climate change.

A computer generated image of the new runway, with the M25 in a tunnel, bottom left of picture

Heathrow Airport appealed but the Government did not, leaving the case to be fought between the airport and campaign groups Friends of the Earth and Plan B. The Supreme Court allowed Heathrow’s appeal and reinstated the ANPS.

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.’

Before becoming prime minister, Boris Johnson was an outspoken opponent of the new runway.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: 'This is the right result for the country, which will allow Global Britain to become a reality. Only by expanding the UK’s hub airport can we connect all of Britain to all of the growing markets of the world, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in every nation and region of our country.

'Demand for aviation will recover from COVID, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany. Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.'

The Department for Transport has not commented on the ruling, which was also welcomed by the GMB union and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association.

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