Heathrow Airport wins Supreme Court appeal over third runway decision

Heathrow Airport has won a Supreme Court challenge over the Government’s decision to give the go-ahead for a third runway.

Three leading judges concluded in February that former transport secretary Chris Grayling failed to take account of the Government’s commitments to tackling climate change when setting out support for the project in an Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS).

Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave said the ANPS was unlawful because Mr Grayling failed to take account of the Government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement – which commits signatories to tackling climate change by taking measures to limit global warming to well below 2C.

Heathrow Airport Ltd, which owns and operates the airport, challenged that ruling at a two-day hearing before a panel of five justices in October.

Heathrow Airport third runway challenge
A plane taking off from Heathrow Airport

Giving a summary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday, Lord Sales said Mr Grayling’s decision was lawful and he was under “no obligation” to discuss the Paris Agreement separately in the ANPS.

The airport’s challenge was opposed by environmental charities Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth – both of which argued that the appeal should be dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal considered the case following a challenge by a group of councils in London affected by the expansion, environmental charities including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth, and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

The effect of the ruling, which overturned a previous High Court decision made in May last year, was that current Transport Secretary Grant Shapps would have to review the ANPS to ensure it accords with the commitments on climate change.

The Government did not oppose the court’s declaration that the ANPS was unlawful and did not seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

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