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.
In pictures: 70 years of Heathrow
In pictures: 70 years of Heathrow
1/22 Inside one of the terminal tents in 1946
The year the airport opened. Comfortable armchairs and flowers try to distract from the conditions
Graham Bridges collection
2/22 An aerial view of the airport in 1949
Construction of the runway layout and Central Area are under way
3/22 A Pan Am crew checks out the Boeing Stratocruiser N1029V Clipper Golden Eagle in 1954
During the early 1950s, Pan Am and American Overseas Airlines operated Statocruisers into London Airport in direct competition on the North Atlantic route operated by BOAC
4/22 One of the first official London Airport guidebooks
C.1953, priced 1s
5/22 In 1950 a permanent concrete terminal building was built
This replaced the tents previously used at London Airport North and is seen still in use for charter and cargo flights in this 1959 view
via Graham Bridges
6/22 BOAC check-in desk in 1954
Inside the new London Airport North terminal building, just before the move to the Central Area
Graham Bridges collection
7/22 Air traffic control tower in the 1960s
Inside the visual control room
CAA Archives via Pete Bish
8/22 Rear cover of the 1956 guidebook
Showing a plan of the airport at the time, with entrance prices to the spectators’ viewing terraces and for airport coach tours
9/22 Spectators in 1958
How close can you get? As soon as the Central Area was open, spectators were afforded unprecedented views of the airliners
10/22 Terminal 3 was opened as the Oceanic Terminal on 13 November 1961
It was built to handle flight departures for long-haul routes. Renamed Terminal 3 in 1968, it was expanded in 1970 with the addition of an arrivals building
11/22 Inside Terminal 3 in 1969
Check-in desks for BOAC and QANTAS airlines
12/22 Plane spotting on Heathrow’s viewing terraces in the 1960s
Wrap up warm, take your spotting logbooks, pen and binoculars and get your mum to pack your sandwiches
13/22 No 1 Passenger Building
Also called the Europa Building. In this photo, taken on 22 June 1963, flags of the many airlines it serves are flown
14/22 Luggage-trailer-towing Routemaster buses
When BEA and BOAC merged to form BA on 1 April 1974, both fleets had to be repainted in the new livery, but so did all the ground support equipment
15/22 The entrance to the traffic tunnel in 1974
A Lufthansa Boeing 737 is seen on the runway
16/22 A 40 per cent scale model of Concorde
In September 1990 it was erected on the roundabout at the entrance to the tunnel that passes under the northern runway at Heathrow Airport. It was built in four main parts, with an 80ft-long central fuselage section, to which the wings and tail fin were attached. The completed model was placed on the roundabout in September 1990 and was monitored by CCTV and surrounded by an infrared perimeter alarm that was connected to the local Heathrow police station to ensure it was not vandalised
17/22 Heathrow Airport's 50th anniversary
On 2 June 1996, Heathrow marked its anniversary with a flypast of representative airliner types that have served the airport over the years. This culminated in a formation flypast by Concorde with Hawks of the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic team
18/22 The roof of Terminal 3’s car park
One of the last bastions for plane spotters and spectators was here. This is the unfriendly notice that greets anyone who attempts this today
19/22 On 24 October 2003 BA withdrew its Concordes from service
The final scheduled commercial flight was BA002 from JFK operated by G-BOAG. Here we see three of the Concordes parked together outside the BA hangar on 8 November 2003 following withdrawal
20/22 The new control tower
Costing £50 million to construct, it gives controllers an excellent 360-degree panoramic view
21/22 The new Terminal 2
The Queen’s Terminal
Looking due west down Runway 27L
“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.”
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.Reuse content