Legal challenge to Heathrow third runway prepares for take-off

By Ewa Krzepisz

On 5 June 2018, the government published its final Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). The NPS contains the policy framework for expansion at London Heathrow airport to meet additional airport capacity demand in south-east England, and confirmed government support for a new Heathrow runway.

On 25 June 2018, Parliament voted to back the NPS and third runway plans. These plans have long been contentious with neighbouring communities and campaigners, who oppose the expansion on noise pollution, air quality and environmental impact concerns.

Four borough councils have announced they are preparing a judicial review should the government formally designate the NPS in support of a third runway. Greenpeace and the Mayor of London have also indicated they will join Hillingdon, Richmond-upon-Thames, Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham in their legal challenge.

In the same week, the Committee on Climate Change published its “Reducing UK emissions – 2018 Progress Report to Parliament”. It warned that a ‘marked failure’ to reduce emissions in the transport sector, among others, during the past five years means the UK is not on course to meet the legally binding fourth (2023-2027) or fifth (2028-2032) carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act 2008. It should also be remembered that in May this year, the European Commission referred the UK to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to respect limit values for nitrogen dioxide or to take appropriate measures to keep excedance periods as short as possible.

As scrutiny of carbon budgets and non-compliance with air quality laws increases, it will be worth noting what role or weight these issues may have in any forthcoming legal challenge.