Heathrow can appeal against third runway block

Plane landing at HeathrowImage source, Getty Images

Heathrow Airport has been granted permission to appeal against a block on its plans for a third runway.

In February the Court of Appeal found the government decision to allow the plans to go ahead was unlawful.

At the time the court said the government had not taken its climate commitments into account, but Heathrow said it would appeal.

The Supreme Court has now given permission for an appeal to go ahead.

Heathrow said it would go ahead with the appeal, despite the aviation sector taking a massive hit from the coronavirus crisis.

An airport spokesman said: "Responding to the impacts of coronavirus is our priority right now. We do believe that once the benefits of air travel and connectivity have been restored in years to come, an expanded Heathrow will be required."

The Heathrow spokesman added that the privately funded project would "see billions of pounds pumped into the UK's economy, stimulating sectors across the country and creating tens of thousands of new jobs."

Image source, Getty Images

'We'll resist'

However, Friends of the Earth, which was one of the groups that brought the case against Heathrow, said investment should instead be put into green infrastructure projects.

"It is especially important now, as we plan for a future after the dreadful coronavirus pandemic, that the UK invests in low-carbon, resilient infrastructure. A new runway at Heathrow is the opposite of what we need to be building," said Friends of the Earth pollution campaigner Jenny Bates.

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: "We'll resist the appeal brought by Heathrow Airport and the developer Aurora Holdings, in the Supreme Court.

"Climate change must be front and centre in all planning and infrastructure decisions, and it is irresponsible for them to try and avoid the Court of Appeal's verdict against them on climate change by this appeal.

In February, the Court of Appeal found that the government had not followed UK policy when backing the controversial expansion plans.

It said that the government had a duty to take into account the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming.

It was "legally fatal" to the government's Heathrow expansion policy that it did not take those climate commitments into account, the judges said at the time.

On Thursday, three Supreme Court Justices - Lord Reed, Lord Hodge and Lord Sales - gave permission to appeal that judgement.

British Airways-owner IAG, which has in the past criticised the expansion's costs and called for an independent review of the environmental impact, said: "The challenges facing Heathrow's expansion are immense and even greater now following [the coronavirus crisis]."

However, the CBI industry group said: "Ensuring a safe return to work after coronavirus is business' top priority right now, but an expanded Heathrow can play an important role in driving prosperity over the long term.

"Businesses will be pleased that Heathrow has been given the opportunity to get this critical project back on track."

And Adam Marshal, director general of industry group the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Businesses are clear that an expanded Heathrow will provide crucial regional connectivity, access to key markets across the world and wider economic benefits extending across the UK.

"While attention is rightly focused on the immediate response to coronavirus, firms will be hoping that long-overdue plans for a world-leading hub airport can move ahead in due course to help power recovery and future growth."