Legal battle against Heathrow expansion plans reaches High Court

Councils, campaigners and the Mayor of London are bringing a High Court challenge against the Government’s approval of a third runway at Heathrow Airport (PA/Steve Parsons) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A joint legal battle against controversial plans to expand Heathrow Airport will be heard at the High Court.

Councils and campaigners are challenging the Government’s decision to approve the building of a third runway.

The case is being brought against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling by local authorities in London affected by the expansion and campaign groups including PlanB and Friends Of The Earth.

The coalition claims the Government’s National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out its support for the project fails to properly deal with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

When Mr Grayling was notified of the proceedings in July, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Heathrow expansion will result in hundreds of thousands of people being blighted by intolerable noise levels and worsening air quality in an area where pollution is already well above legal levels.

“The Government has failed to demonstrate how it will fund the billions of pounds needed to improve road and rail connections to the airport.”

Support from Labour MPs helped push through the proposals to expand Europe’s busiest airport with an overwhelming majority of 296 in a Commons’ vote last month.

Mr Grayling said the new runway would set a “clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world”.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Construction could begin in 2021, with the third runway operational by 2026.

Oliver Hayes, climate change campaigner at Friends Of The Earth, said: “Heathrow is already the single biggest source of emissions in the UK.

“Adding a third runway will make it virtually impossible for us to meet our climate change targets and demonstrates a shocking willingness to leave future generations stranded with climate-damaging infrastructure.”

Plan B director Tim Crosland said: “The broad coalition of devolved government and civil society lining up against the Government is proof that this is not a political issue, it’s a coalition for the future of life on earth – one that everyone can get behind.”

A Department for Transport spokeswoman 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.”

The case will be heard at the High Court on Thursday.

Campaigners plan to hold a “solidarity event” before the hearing, which will include speeches from shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.