London’s High Court will on Monday begin a judicial review into the government’s approval of a third runway at Heathrow airport, with local authorities, environmentalists and rival bidders arguing the £14bn scheme should be scrapped.
Five challenges to the decision on the future of the UK’s biggest aviation hub are being heard together, including one brought by a consortium of local authorities, campaigning organisation Greenpeace and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on the grounds of air quality, climate change, noise pollution and transport access.
Gareth Roberts, leader of Richmond council, said air pollution and noise pollution were a nuisance for residents: “Schools are being overflown on a daily basis, it’s a constant noise which is causing massive health issues for local residents.” Mr Roberts advocated expanding Gatwick, the UK’s second-busiest airport, instead.
The other councils involved are Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor & Maidenhead.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Governments are very happy to talk the talk when it comes to protecting the air we breathe and the climate we all share, but unfortunately getting them to walk the walk often takes legal action.”
Heathrow’s scheme was recommended by the Airports Commission and approved by MPs in June 2018 with a majority of 296. After the vote, the government adopted a national policy statement, which contained principles for the expansion. The judicial review will look at the process of approval for the statement.
If the scheme goes ahead, its planned completion date is 2026.
The Department for Transport said: “As with any major infrastructure project, the government has been anticipating legal challenges and will robustly defend our position. We recognise the local impact of any expansion, which is why a world-class package of mitigations would need to be delivered.”
A second challenge comes from Heathrow Hub, a rival scheme to develop a third runway that would extend the airport’s existing northern runway; Heathrow Airport Limited, the airport’s owner, plans to build a new runway, known as the North-West Runway.
Heathrow Hub has said that transport secretary Chris Grayling gave HAL a veto over Heathrow Hub’s proposal and that there was a “factually incorrect assumption” about how many flights Heathrow Hub could facilitate.
Heathrow, which is not a direct party to the review, is bullish about the runway going ahead. John Holland-Kaye, chief executive, said the airport was “cracking on” with its plans, which have included a consultation on the changing use of its airspace. “We’ve got to have the bigger Heathrow if we’re going to thrive as a global trading nation,” Mr Holland-Kaye said.
Heathrow said judicial reviews were “a completely normal occurrence in infrastructure projects of this size” and that the process had been “robust”.
The airport wants to change how aircraft approach it to allow an additional 25,000 flights each year, including over areas currently unaffected by aircraft noise, even if its planned third runway does not go ahead. Heathrow has a cap of 480,000 flights a year.
The High Court hearings are expected to last about two weeks, with the judgment being reserved.
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