UK Supreme Court Rules In Favour Of Third Runway At Heathrow Airport
Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports, can build a third runway, overturning a legal decision to block the plan on environmental grounds.
The nation’s highest court struck down a Court of Appeal ruling in February that the UK government had failed to take into account climate change commitments when in 2018 it approved the new runway at the London airport.
Heathrow successfully argued that the Court of Appeal made errors of law.
Environmental group Greenpeace said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should still not allow the project to proceed, in the light of his government’s targets on cutting carbon emissions.
The Supreme Court said the previous Conservative government had “no obligation” to consider the Paris climate agreement when it gave the nod to the extra runway.
While the UK government said building work could begin in 2022, Heathrow warned that it would delay construction by at least two years owing to the coronavirus fallout and the legal challenges.
– ‘Win against rivals’ –
Heathrow hailed Wednesday’s ruling, which it said would also allow Britain to compete with continental rivals following Brexit.
“Only by expanding the UK’s hub airport can we connect all of Britain to all of the growing markets of the world, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in every nation and region of our country,” it said in a statement.
“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.”
The airport added that it had “already committed” to net-zero carbon emissions and that the latest ruling “recognises the robust planning process that will require… expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement.”
But Greenpeace UK urged the government to scrap the project.
“Heathrow Ltd has squeaked out a belated legal win, but history has moved on,” said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven.
“Now the ball is in the government’s court, it’s hard to imagine Boris Johnson wanting to resurrect a project that makes no business or environmental sense.
“With a UK-hosted climate summit just a year away, the government should draw a line under this sorry saga.”
The ruling comes as the deadly Covid-19 pandemic has devastated demand for international air travel.
Heathrow last week said its Terminal 4 would remain closed until the end of next year because of the slump in passenger numbers.
Britain’s largest airport is owned by a consortium led by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial and comprising also sovereign wealth funds from China, Singapore and Qatar.