Protesters gathered outside the High Court on Monday morning (March 11) to mark the start of a series of legal challenges questioning the legality of the government’s decision to approve expansion at Heathrow airport via a third runway.
The £14 billion scheme was green lit by MPs last June through the new Airports National Policy Statement drafted by the Department for Transport (DfT) and tabled by transport secretary Chris Grayling.
Heathrow hopes to start work on the new runway in 2021, subject to planning permissions and legal challenges, and have the work completed and the runway operational by, or during, 2026.
However, as forecast, a handful of legal challenges have already been lodged, the first of which begun in the High Court on Monday. They variously comprise local authorities, environmental campaigners and pressure groups, as well as rival expansion bidders such as Heathrow Hub.
One of the objections comprises Greenpeace, the office of mayor of London Sadiq Khan and a coalition of local councils, including prime minister Theresa May’s constituency authority of Windsor and Maidenhead. Other councils challenging the decision include Richmond, Hillingdon, Wandsworth, and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Their challenge comes on grounds of air quality, climate change, noise pollution and transport access.
Another comes from Heathrow Hub, which advocates expansion at Heathrow by extending the airport’s existing northern runway, rather than by building the airport’s proposed new north-west runway.
Heathrow Hub contends the DfT’s process to achieve expansion at Heathrow was “flawed and unlawful”, and would run to unnecessary cost and disruption while resulting in cost increases for both passengers and airlines.
In total, five judicial reviews will be heard over the next fortnight, with a decision on the legality of the ANPS expected following consideration by the judges.
A DfT spokesperson said: “Expansion at Heathrow is a critical programme which will boost the economy, increase our international connections and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
“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.”