Campaigners react with fury over decision not to review Heathrow policy

Environmentalists and campaigners against Heathrow expansion have condemned a Government decision not to review its policy on the scheme.

The Department for Transport has rejected pressure to ditch the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), a document which was at the centre of a legal row over the potential environmental impact of plans for a third runway at the west London site.

In response to calls to review the policy, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps decided it was “not appropriate to review the ANPS on the basis of climate change or carbon policy at this time”.

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The DfT said Mr Shapps acknowledged there had been a “significant and unforeseen change in circumstances” since the policy was drawn up, including the Government’s commitment to a net zero emissions target by 2050 and Parliament’s declaration of a “climate emergency”.

“However, he considers that it is not possible to conclude properly that any of the policy set out in the ANPS would have been materially different had these circumstances been anticipated at the time of designation,” the DfT said in its official response to the calls for a review.

Paul McGuinness, chairman of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said it was disappointing and “illogical” that the Government had “squandered this opportunity to abandon Heathrow expansion, once and for all”.

Geraldine Nicholson, from campaign group Stop Heathrow Expansion, said it was “extremely frustrating”.

“Heathrow expansion will not pass the planning stage of the process on a whole raft of issues, so why continue the policy any further now,” she claimed.

“It is certainly not in our national interest and locally thousands of people immediately around Heathrow must live with the proposals hanging over them for even longer while the Government decides how best to save face by cancelling the plans. This decision is simply delaying the inevitable.”

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Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr: “The Government claims that the developments of the last few years, including Parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency and the Government’s legal commitment to reduce net carbon emissions to zero, would have made no difference to their plans for airport expansion.

“And so new runways join new roads, new oil fields and new coal mines on the list of high carbon infrastructure whose impact we can safely ignore.

“But the truth is the only way a massive increase in carbon emissions can be irrelevant to a pledge to eliminate carbon emissions is if that pledge was dishonest.”

In a reference to the Prime Minister’s previous public statements in opposition to Heathrow expansion, Dr Parr added: “When Boris said he’d be lying in front of the bulldozers, we assumed he meant as an activist trying to stop them, and not as an apologist for the aviation industry.”

COURTS Heathrow
(PA Graphics)

The ANPS figured in a court battle which saw Heathrow Airport Limited overturn a ruling that the Government had failed to take account of its own climate commitments when it approved the scheme.

Under the terms of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the UK must take measures to limit global warming to well below 2C.

The Court of Appeal concluded that former transport secretary Chris Grayling’s support for the Heathrow project in the ANPS did not meet the Government’s pledge to tackle climate change.

But the Supreme Court said Mr Grayling’s decision was lawful and he was under “no obligation” to discuss the Paris Agreement separately in the ANPS.

A DfT spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has decided that it is not appropriate to review the Airports National Policy Statement at this time.”

The Government is currently examining how to decarbonise aviation in its “jet zero strategy”.

The DfT spokesman said: “The issue of whether to review the ANPS will be reconsidered after the Jet Zero Strategy has been finalised and we have more certainty about the longer-term impact of Covid-19 on aviation.”

A Heathrow spokesman said: “Today’s decision recognises the benefits an expanded Heathrow would deliver for UK PLC.

“Although we are currently focused on the safe restart of international travel and the airport’s recovery, demand will return, and the UK’s hub capacity will once again become constrained.

“Not addressing this will have significant consequences for international trade and tourism and for the Prime Minister’s Global Britain ambitions.

“We look forward to working with ministers and the jet zero council to develop and deliver a plan which proves that the economic benefits of additional airport capacity do not have to come at the cost of the environment.”