Challenge against Heathrow’s third runway begins at High Court

The Mayor of London, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and five local authorities will go to the High Court this week to challenge Transport Minister Chris Grayling’s decision to back the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

At the judicial review, lawyers representing the coalition, which includes Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, will say the Secretary of State ignored information about how long vehicles will need to spend travelling to the new runway, which will increase air pollution for those living in the area.

They will also say he failed to produce an environmental report showing which communities were going to be affected by noise. Instead, he published only ‘indicative flightpaths’ which they say are ‘almost meaningless.’

The planned development would see the total number of flights that the airport is able to cope with – both incoming and departing – increase from around 473,000 currently to closer to 740,000. It is also claimed that the number of passengers using the airport would nearly double to around 130 million per year.

The claimants also argue that the third runway could jeopardise progress towards climate change objectives, will breach the habitats directive and has been the subject of a ‘flawed’ consultation process.

If the Secretary of State is found to have acted unlawfully, they say the National Policy Statement which approved the expansion must be quashed.

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, said: ‘Toxic air pollution leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year and stunts the development of children’s lungs.

‘Heathrow’s expansion would worsen air quality further, with dire consequences on the health and quality of Londoners’ lives.

‘There is no commitment to new rail infrastructure and expansion is expected to result in at least 40,000 additional vehicles on the roads every day. Together with serious concerns about increased disruption from noise, we had no choice but to challenge this decision.’

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, added: ‘The climate minister has admitted we’re in the grip of a climate emergency. The environment secretary has declared air pollution one of the biggest threats to public health in the UK. So how can ministers justify building a runway that’s bound to make both problems much worse?

‘Governments are very happy to talk the talk when it comes to protecting the air we breathe and the climate we all share, but unfortunately, getting them to walk the walk often takes legal action.’