Heathrow’s plans for a third runway have been boosted after the Supreme Court threw out a climate change challenge.
Judges have overturned an Appeal Court ruling that said the government’s airports strategy did not meet UK climate targets. They ruled Heathrow’s own strategy was based on less stringent climate targets when it was agreed.
The decision does not mean the runway will go ahead, as it still faces a public enquiry and, in the aftermath of the pandemic, will need backing to the tune of nearly £40 billion.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “This is the right result for the country, which will allow Global Britain to become a reality.
“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.
“Demand for aviation will recover from Covid, 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 Supreme Court’s verdict was also welcomed by the GMB union. Warren Kenny, acting general secretary, said: “Today’s ruling is a welcome boost at the end to a gruelling year for aviation workers who have seen their industry brought to its knees by the pandemic.
“This judgment is a much-needed injection of hope for economic recovery and the creation of many thousands of good, unionised jobs at Heathrow and in the wider supply chain.
“The government has no more excuses now. It’s time for ministers to step up and back Heathrow and the wider aviation industry with the support it needs to get itself flying once again.”
However, Jock Lowe, director of Heathrow Hub, the lower-cost scheme to extend the northern runway, said: “The irony of the Supreme Court judgement is that Heathrow’s third runway has no prospect of being built.”
He said Heathrow now faced “the impossible task of explaining how it intends to finance its third runway”, costing an estimated £38 billion in today’s prices.
“It has already asked to increase passenger fees substantially and will presumably now do so again. The government is clear that no public money will be made available.”
Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, one of the organisations opposing the third runway, said: “This judgment is no ‘green light’ for expansion. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage. Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain, and we now look forward to stopping the third runway in the planning arena.
“With ever stronger climate policy commitments that Heathrow must meet, it remains unlikely it will ever get planning permission for the third runway."