Heathrow expansion: London councils and campaign groups prepare legal challenge to third runway

Local authorities and Greenpeace plan to launch judicial review after controversial Commons vote

Tom Barnes
Tuesday 26 June 2018 19:37
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Protestors lay down on lobby of Houses of Parliament to protest Heathrow expansion

London councils and campaigners are preparing a legal challenge against the government’s decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow.

Four local authorities affected by the airport expansion, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Hammersmith and Fulham, will launch a juridical review against the plans in partnership with Greenpeace and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Support from Labour MPs helped the government to finally push through controversial proposals for a new runway at Europe's busiest airport with an overwhelming majority of 296 on Monday.

However, communities surrounding Heathrow fear the environmental impacts of the planned expansion could blight their lives through air pollution and additional aircraft noise.

“This Heathrow flight has failed all safety checks, yet ministers have boarded it anyway and persuaded a majority of MPs to go along with them,” said Greenpeace's UK executive director, John Sauven.

“But we can’t just look the other way while the whole dashboard flashes red with warning lights.

“The UK government won’t be able to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, never mind leaving a healthier environment to the next generation, if a new Heathrow runway is built.

“If ministers don’t want to uphold the laws protecting us from toxic fumes and climate change, we’re going to ask a court to do that.”

James Thornton, chief executive of non-profit environmental law firm ClientEarth, said there were “serious doubts” over the legal basis for expansion at Heathrow.

“The government’s proposal says that consent for Heathrow expansion must be refused unless the airport can prove that a third runway would not affect the UK’s compliance with air quality legal obligations,” he said.

“So the government has taken arguably one of the most difficult aspects of this application and dumped it on the planning inspectorate to sort out.

“The Department for Transport’s own analysis says that there is a high risk expansion will delay compliance with air quality laws.

“In the meantime, the scheme will leave people exposed to more air pollution. This is in direct contravention of the government’s obligations and disregards some of the court findings in our successful legal challenges against ministers.”

The former Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, was one of eight Conservative MPs to rebel against the government during the vote, as well as Greg Hands, who quit as a minister so he could oppose plans.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, a long-time opponent of expansion, has come under intense scrutiny after he dodged the vote by taking a trip to Afghanistan.

Labour is officially opposed to the move but allowed a free vote on the measure that is backed by unions like Unite.

The plans will create 114,000 extra jobs in the area around the airport by 2030, with an extra 16 million long-haul seats by 2040, according to officials.

Additional reporting by PA

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