The government has cleared the latest potential barrier to Heathrow expansion after ruling out a review of its decision to give the green light to a third runway.
In an open letter publish on Monday (6 September), the Department for Transport confirmed it had rejected a reassessment of the Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS) – the framework policy around deciding Heathrow expansion - claiming it was “not appropriate at this time”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said his department would not be making any changes to the framework, claiming the ANPS would not have been materially different had it been published after the government adopted its current stance on tackling climate change.
Parliament gave its backing to the Heathrow plans in the summer of 2018 but building work has since been disrupted by several legal challenges.
Most notably, the Supreme Court ruled in December that ministers had not broken the law in forming the ANPS, overturning a judgment earlier in 2020 by the Court of Appeal.
The DfT acknowledged there had been a “significant and unforeseen change” in the government’s position on climate change since the expansion decision was taken - including the introduction of a legally binding target to cut carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050.
“However, he [Shapps] 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 wrote in the letter.
Officials also added that it was currently not possible to gauge the impact of the Covid pandemic on the long-term demand for aviation expansion in the UK.
The DfT’s letter said a decision on the expansion policy would be “considered again” as part of a further review of the government’s aviation reforms in the coming years.