Supreme Court rules Heathrow expansion lawful

The Supreme Court has ruled that government policy supporting the expansion of Heathrow Airport is lawful, however, the future of the third runway remains uncertain. 

Today’s ruling overturns Friends of the Earth’s historic legal victory earlier this year, where the court deemed the expansion plan illegal as the government had not considered its climate commitments.

However, the Supreme Court has now held that the Secretary of State has broad discretion on what to consider as part of the climate change and sustainable development in relation to the section 10 duty under the Planning Act 2008 and whether and how far it should consider the Paris Agreement.

This means that the project can now seek planning permission.

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘This judgment is no ‘green light’ for expansion. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage. Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain and we now look forward to stopping the third runway in the planning arena.

‘With ever-stronger climate policy commitments that Heathrow must meet, it remains unlikely it will ever get planning permission for the third runway. Friends of the Earth will fight it all the way. We are in this for people everywhere facing climate breakdown right now, and for the next generation who are being left to inherit a world changed for the worse.’

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith added: ‘Our client can be extremely proud of what it has achieved for the environment, as we welcome the Supreme Court ruling that any future Government decision under the Airports National Policy Strategy to grant development consent for the third runway at Heathrow must be made in accordance with the obligations under the Paris Agreement and the carbon reduction targets in place at that time.

‘Given those obligations and targets have become much more challenging since the ANPS was designated and are only expected to get tougher, especially in light of the advice by the Committee on Climate Change that, in order to meet Net Zero Target, there should be no net increase in airport capacity, this judgment represents a huge advancement in our client’s continuing battle against the third runway and the climate catastrophe facing the world.’


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