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Setback for runway

Climate campaigners win ruling to halt Heathrow plan


Heathrow is struggling with capacity issues

Campaigners have won an important ruling that could scupper plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Court of Appeal judges said that the government could only go ahead if it was in line with its Paris climate commitments which had not been taken into account Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary at the time.

Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave said the Government failed to take account of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change when setting out its support for the airport expansion in its National Policy Statement (NPS).

Lord Justice Lindblom told a packed court: “The Paris Agreement ought to have been taken into account by the Secretary of State in the preparation of the NPS and an explanation given as to how it was taken into account, but it was not.”

The Government has not said that it will appeal and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has opposed the expansion. Grant Shapps, the current Transport Secretary was due to make a statement.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the decision should prompt the government to kill off the plan.

“The third runway is already on its knees over costs, noise, air pollution, habitat loss and lack of access, and now Heathrow Ltd has yet another impossibly high hurdle to clear,” he said.

“Boris Johnson should now put Heathrow out of its misery and cancel the third runway once and for all. No ifs, no buts, no lies, no u-turns.”

However, Heathrow was confident that the verdict was “fixable” and that it would appeal.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The Court of Appeal dismissed all appeals against the government – including on ‘noise’ and ‘air quality’ – apart from one which is eminently fixable. We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident that we will be successful.

“In the meantime, we are ready to work with the government to fix the issue that the court has raised. Heathrow has taken a lead in getting the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to get to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord.

“Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the prime minister’s vision of global Britain. We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future. Let’s get Heathrow done.”

GMB, the union for Heathrow staff, said that it is disappointed by the ruling.

Nadine Houghton, the union’s national officer, said: “Heathrow expansion is a complicated issue, but we have consistently backed it because the benefits more than outweigh any risks.

“Expansion would protect an existing 80,000 jobs, create a further 114,000 – as well as 10,000 apprenticeships.

“Like everyone else, GMB members are very worried about climate change, but we would have held Heathrow Airport Ltd’s feet to the fire on their target for ‘net zero’ emissions by the mid-2030s.

“The government must now come up with a proper aviation strategy for the UK – and unions must be front and centre in those discussions.”

Business communities across the UK will be bitterly disappointed

– Adam Marshall, British Chambers of Commerce

Business groups were also dismayed by the verdict after the Commons voted in favour of the runway.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Business communities across the UK will be bitterly disappointed that plans for a world-leading hub airport are now at risk.

“Without expansion, firms risk losing crucial regional connectivity and access to key markets across the world.

“The benefits of a third runway would extend far beyond south-east England. Hundreds of UK companies are already invested in the supply chain for expansion, and tens of thousands of additional jobs will be created if the project goes ahead.”

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “We can’t keep bouncing back major infrastructure projects that are crucial to regional connectivity. 

“We believe this judgement… would have a detrimental impact on Scottish business’s ability to invest and trade. We urge the UK government to go ahead with expansion so we can get down to business.”

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director general, said: “This decision raises a fair question of how to balance reaching the net zero target without stifling the UK’s global ambitions.  

“All major projects must be consistent with net zero and it’s clear that the Government and aviation industry need to work closely to agree a robust decarbonisation plan. 

“But this decision risks holding back the very investment in innovation needed to achieve that, and the ambitions of many businesses eager to benefit from greater international connectivity. 

“It is vital that the Government and Heathrow work closely together to remedy the fair concerns raised by the judgement and keep this project on track. Opportunities for future trade will not wait.”

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