Supreme Court overturns Heathrow third runway ban

The Supreme Court has revived plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

The long-delayed, much-debated scheme was previously blocked by the Appeal Court, which had argued the current airport strategy from the government did not meet up-to-date UK climate targets.

However, in a case argued by Friends of the Earth, the Supreme Court has ruled the strategy was legitimately based on previous, less stringent, climate targets at the time it was agreed.

The firm behind Heathrow can now seek planning permission for the runway, the court said.

Commenting on the news, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “This is the right result for the country, which will allow global Britain to become a reality. 

“Demand for aviation will recover from Covid-19, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany. 

“Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.

“As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure their safety and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps.”

The expansion still faces major obstacles, including having to persuade a public enquiry of the case for the development.

If planning inspectors approve the scheme, the government will still have the final say – again.

Friends of the Earth pointed out the judgement was no ‘green light’ for expansion.

It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage, where the group said it would continue the challenge against a third runway.

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “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.”



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