Greenpeace joins with councils to prepare legal challenge over Heathrow airport expansion

The campaigning group said a third runway at Heathrow airport would be an ‘air pollution and carbon timebomb’

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Greenpeace has joined forces with councils close to Heathrow airport to prepare to take the Government to court if Theresa May gives the go-ahead for a third runway.

The environmental campaigning group said it would contribute costs alongside Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils to instruct lawyers to seek a judicial review in the event of the Prime Minister approving the controversial runway. 

Greenpeace argues that new evidence on the severe health impacts of air and noise pollution makes the expansion of Heathrow far less likely to pass a review.

Last week the former Chancellor George Osborne intervened in the debate and urged Ms May to back the expansion of Heathrow. He claimed the west London hub needs increased capacity so that Britain can be "outward-looking, free-trading and global". 

It is now expected a decision – delayed during David Cameron’s premiership – will be made next week. The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman told journalists at a briefing she was determined to get the decision “right” so that future generations would get the full benefits of airport expansion.

She added: “We have been clear that the Government will make a decision on that soon. The Government is very clear on the importance of making a decision – the need to address the problems around airport capacity and the huge economic opportunities of airport expansion.

“Clearly it is an important decision to get right so that future generations can benefit.”

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, however, said a third runway at Heathrow airport would be an “air pollution and carbon timebomb”. He added: “It would jeopardise the Government’s chances of meeting legally-binding air pollution and climate targets designed to protect the health and security of millions of people. If ministers are willing to trample over these fundamental laws, we’re ready to take them to court to stop them.

“Theresa May has made much of her determination to help ordinary people and hold corporations to account. The decision on airport expansion will be the acid test of whether she’s willing to deliver on the promise.” 

The leaders of Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils will join with Greenpeace to mount the legal challenge. Ravu Govindia, Wandsworth’s council leader, said Ms May “should be in no doubt about the scale of opposition” expansion of the airport will face. 

“A scheme this environmentally offensive will unite a force of opposition no Government can overcome. It’s wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted effort. We once again urge the Government to accept the inevitable and rule out Heathrow.”

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Lord True, the leader of Richmond council, added: “Let no one ever call our residents nimbys. Day in day out they put up with the worst noise and air quality in Europe from before dawn to midnight. But enough is enough. A bigger Heathrow is wrong not just for environmental reasons, but wrong for competition, wrong for security from terrorism and wrong because it represents the very opposite of what this new Government stands for – the victory of the privileged few, international monopolistic investors over the lives of ordinary families. It will never be built.”

It comes as Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, hinted to the Guardian that the airport would secure Government approval following a last-minute Whitehall study into air quality giving the all-clear. 

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