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Court Blocks London Heathrow’s Third Runway Project

Court Blocks London Heathrow’s Third Runway Project
Joe Cortez

After years of debate and planning, Britain’s London Heathrow Airport may not get a third runway due to climate and emission policies. Judges in Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled in favor of environmental groups who brought forward the lawsuit, ending the current plans for the runway expansion program.

Lack of climate change preparation “is legally fatal to the [airports statement] in its present form”

In a 13-page decision by the Court of Appeal, the three-judge panel ruled in favor of the organizations challenging the Secretary of State for Transport and Others: the Mayor of London, Greenpeace Ltd., Friends of the Earth Ltd. and Plan B Earth. Setting aside the political debate over the Heathrow expansion plan, the judgment squarely focused on the question of whether the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was compliant with the Paris Accord.

“We have made it clear that we are not concerned in these proceedings with the political debate and controversy to which the prospect of a third runway being constructed at Heathrow has given rise. That is none of the court’s business,” the court’s brief ruling reads. “We are required – and only required – to determine whether the Divisional Court was wrong to conclude that the ANPS was produced lawfully.”

In reviewing the arguments presented by both sides, the court determined that the planned third runway ran against Britain’s commitments to the Paris Accord. Because the document was drafted without considering the climate change agreement, the judges agreed that the plan could not move forward in its current form.

“The Paris Agreement ought to have been taken into account by the Secretary of State in the preparation of the ANPS and an explanation given as to how it was taken into account, but it was not,” the judgment reads. “That, in our view, is legally fatal to the ANPS in its present form.”

In preparation for a final judgment, the court provided an opportunity for each side to make the plans compliant but they were unable to do so. The plan now goes back to the Secretary of State for Transportation to determine how to move forward with the project. A third runway could still be built at the airport, so long as the plan is compliant with the Paris Accord.

Although attorneys for the British government have not signaled they will take it to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, officials for Heathrow said they would appeal the decision in a statement on Twitter:

The Impact on Heathrow Airport

In the FlyerTalk forums, members have expressed frustration with the decision. Many are concerned that the project stop could prevent future growth for Britain’s busiest hub.

“So LHR is going to stop at 99.5 percent capacity for the foreseeable future – or until another PM comes along,” writes FlyerTalker Camflyer. “If this is about the ‘climate emergency’ then we shoud be stopping all airport expansions, but to single out Heathrow while allowing others doesn’t make sense when it is the one in most need of extra capacity.”

Not surprised. Double standards though,” writes forum member wb1969. “Courts block a desperately needed 3rd runway. Meantime High Speed 2, which will go down as the most expensive waste of public money in history, goes unchallenged in the courts and full steam ahead.”

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