Opponents to a third runway at Heathrow are beginning legal proceedings to try to overturn the government’s plans to expand Heathrow Airport.
In June, MPs rubber-stamped plans for a third runway at Europe’s busiest airport, which Heathrow says will cost £14bn and open in 2026.
The option was unanimously recommended by the Davies Commission in 2015. The three-year study chose it over proposals for an extended northern runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick.
But the project faces its first legal test as a coalition of groups opposed to expansion begin a challenge in the High Court.
The Mayor of London, five local authorities and environmental campaigners say there are many unanswered questions about the wider environmental impact.
They are joined by proponents of Heathrow Hub, the extended runway option, who claim that the decision process which led to the National Policy Statement was flawed.
The High Court will decide which of the legal challenges has sufficient grounds to proceed to a full judicial review.
Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “The negative environmental impact of this highly disruptive airport should not be allowed to grow.
“Having ignored evidence, such as the report of parliament’s Transport Select Committee, the decision to expand Heathrow was always going to end up in the courts, under judicial review.
“We are delighted that the process has now started.”
The court will give directions as to how claims should proceed, and a main hearing is expected to open in March 2019.
The defendant in the legal action is the Department for Transport (DfT), which is backing the third runway option.
A DfT spokesperson said: “Expansion at Heathrow is a critical programme which will provide a boost to the economy, increase our international links and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
“As with any major infrastructure project, we have been anticipating legal challenges and will robustly defend our position.
“Today’s hearing does not impact on the work Heathrow is undertaking on its application for planning consent or the timetable to deliver this much-needed runway.”
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are participating in the legal challenges as an interested party given our role as the promoter of this critically important, national project.
“Our work in delivering Britain’s new runway will continue in tandem with this process, following overwhelming support in Parliament.
“We remain focused on the work needed for our development consent order submission in 2020 and we are getting on with the delivery of this project which will benefit the whole of the UK.”
Under a judicial review, the court cannot directly block the new runway from being built. But a judge could strike out parts of the government’s plan or order the policy to be reviewed.
On the day the Davies Commission reported, 1 July 2015, Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, said a third runway would never be built.
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