The Wokingham Paper

Heathrow expansion ruled 'unlawful' after disregarding Paris Agreement

Heathrow expansion has been ruled 'unlawful'. Picture: Hugh Llewelyn

IT WAS RULED today that the planned expansion of Heathrow Airport was unlawful.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the government decision to expand the airport is unlawful on climate grounds — making this one of the biggest environmental law cases in the UK for over a generation.

The legal challenge was made by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth.

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “We are delighted with The Court of Appeal’s ruling, which goes to show the massive importance of the legal system to check the clear abuse of state power by government, such as in this case.

“Shockingly, this case revealed that the government accepted legal advice that it should not consider the Paris Agreement when giving the third runway the go-ahead. The Court has said very clearly that it was illegal.

“This judgment has exciting wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions. It’s time for developers and public authorities to be held to account when it comes to the climate impact of their damaging developments.”

Heathrow Airport will not have a third runway built.

Jenny Bates, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The UK government must take this ruling as an opportunity to play its full part in fixing the international climate crisis, especially in the year that it hosts crucial climate talks in Glasgow.

“This means finally moving on from the climate-wrecking Heathrow third runway project and ensuring the UK aviation sector actually cuts its climate emissions, rather than adding to them.

“The Court has specifically recognised how the climate crisis needs to be at the heart of major infrastructure decisions. It’s time that the government catches up with this fact and stops pursuing its outdated climate-wrecking transport projects, such as major new roads and airport expansion at Heathrow or elsewhere, and instead gives us the clean transport network we need.”

In its historic ruling, the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was found unlawful by the Lord Justices of appeal. 

In their judgment, the Secretary of State for Transport — at the time Chris Grayling — had breached s10 of the Planning Act 2008, and acted irrationally, by disregarding the Paris Agreement, the non-CO2 warming impacts of aviation, and the effects of climate change beyond 2050, when making the ANPS to expand Heathrow. 

They said he also breached his duty to undertake a lawful strategic environmental assessment in accordance with the requirements of the SEA Directive and the SEA Regulations.

The Court ruled that this case was one of exceptional public interest, noting that “the issue of climate change is a matter of profound national and international importance of great concern to the public – and, indeed, to the Government of the United Kingdom and many other national governments, as is demonstrated by their commitment to the Paris Agreement.”

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