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Legal ruling

Supreme Court supports third Heathrow runway


Heathrow still faces obstacles getting the new airstrip

The Supreme Court has ruled that Heathrow’s controversial third runway expansion plans can go ahead.

The £14 billion scheme was previously blocked by the Appeal Court, which said the government’s airports strategy contravened the laterst UK climate targets.

A plannning application is now expected from Heathrow Plc which runs the airport..

But it still faces a public enquiry and even if planning inspectors approve the scheme, the government will still have the final say.

With demand for air travel likely to remain well below peak for the next year or two the need for a third runway will come under extra scrutiny.

John Stewart, who chairs the anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: “Despite this verdict, there remains real doubt about whether the third runway will ever see the light of day.


“Recovery is all that is on Heathrow’s mind right now. Flight numbers are down nearly 90%. The airport’s expansion team has long since been disbanded.”

In its judgement, the Supreme Court said that the Secretary of State did take the Paris climate agreements into account.

“He was not legally required to give it more weight than he decided was appropriate. In line with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, the national policy statement is not affected by any unlawfulness, and is valid.”

In November, passenger numbers at the UK’s biggest airport were down 88%, the eighth straight month of decline.

As a result, the airport has elected to keep Terminal 4 closed until the end of 2021. 

In the spring, Heathrow chief executive admitted that the runway would not be required for at least 15 years due to the downturn.

The prospect of a third runway would be welcomed by many in the business community, though environmentalists say the arguments on climate change outweigh economic need.

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On Monday the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed new research by the party that found Scottish ministers have had regular un-recorded meetings with the airport as recently as 8 October.

Liam McArthur LibDem MSP commented:  “It beggars belief that the Transport Secretary is meeting Heathrow at least twice a year and can’t tell us anything about what was said or agreed at these meetings.

“This isn’t the first time the SNP Government or Michael Matheson have dodged scrutiny by not taking minutes of what are obviously important meetings.

“The SNP’s claim to be tackling the climate emergency is wholly undermined if it is regularly meeting the single biggest source of emissions in the entire UK, not taking any record of what was said, and continuing to back its controversial expansion project.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Molly Nolan commented: “When the Scottish Government unveils its Climate Change Plan update it should have a big red line through the misjudged commitment to support an expansion of Heathrow. 

“The expansion is incompatible with tackling the climate emergency and I shouldn’t have to spell out to this government which one should come first.  

“The extra flights from Heathrow to Scotland alone would release 600,000 tonnes of emissions into the environment. That flies in the face of everything we are trying to achieve.”

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