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High Court dismisses challenges to Heathrow’s third runway

The High Court has ruled in favour of the UK government’s plan to allow the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

A coalition of campaigners had challenged the decision, with objectors including the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, five local authorities, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

The Department for Transport was facing five judicial reviews which argued that it had not considered the impact that expanding Heathrow would have on air and noise pollution, or how it would contradict the UK’s climate change objectives.

The news, which comes just hours before the House of Commons is set to debate a motion on declaring a climate emergency, has been met by renewed fury by the London Assembly who have again called on the government to cancel the plans.

Caroline Russell, chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, said: ‘Although the government’s policy on Heathrow has survived this court hearing, it is still not the right course for London or the environment.

‘The government’s own figures show that the extra traffic caused by expansion will worsen air pollution widely across London, shortening Londoners’ lives. At the same time, 200,000 more people will be affected by noise from an expanded Heathrow.

‘In light of the increasing evidence of an escalating climate emergency we again call on the government to cancel Heathrow expansion plans before more money is spent and more damage is done.’

Opponents to a third runway at Heathrow said it would negatively affect communities due to increased air and noise pollution.

Campaigners had been challenging the National Policy Statement made by the government which approved the expansion.

Opponents to the expansion argued that the transport secretary Chris Grayling had ignored information about how long vehicles will spend travelling to the airport, increasing air pollution.

They also challenged the lack of an environmental report exploring which communities would be affected by noise, as well as concerns about habitat destruction, surface transport links and carbon emissions.

The planned expansion will see the total number of incoming and outgoing flights passing through Heathrow each year rise from 473,000 to around 740,000, while the number of passengers using the airport will almost double to around 130 million each year.

Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, called the decision ‘bitterly disappointing’.

Pidgeon said that the government must now commit to increasing surface transport access to Heathrow if the expansion is to go ahead.

‘The government has persisted with this decision without proper preparation for the influx of people that would be travelling to and from Heathrow by car, train and many other means,’ she said.

‘The government must now focus urgently on better public transport links to and from Heathrow.’

The executive director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, said that they are most concerned with the climate impacts of the expansion, with Heathrow airport already the UK’s biggest carbon emitter.

‘For as long as climate change remains an afterthought in government decisions they are kicking our children in the teeth,’ Sauven said.

‘Our children’s future, not the aviation industry’s expansion, should be our nation’s number one priority.’

The transport secretary Chris Grayling said after the announcement of the High Court’s decision: ‘The expansion of Heathrow is vital and will provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities across the length and breadth of Britain, all at no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations.

‘I welcome the court’s judgment today. It makes clear we followed a robust and legally sound process throughout.

‘I now call on all public bodies not to waste any more taxpayers’ money or seek to further delay this vital project which will benefit every corner of the United Kingdom.’

Image credit: Marco Verch (CC BY 2.0)

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