Government Decision To Build Third Heathrow Runway Faces Legal Challenge From Coalition Of 13 Organisations
Today sees the start of court proceedings challenging the Government’s controversial decision to give the go ahead to a third runway at Heathrow.
A coalition of thirteen organisations is backing the legal challenge. It is made up of local councils, leading green groups and residents’ groups, representing millions of people. The coalition’s lawyers will be claiming in court that the consultation process was fundamentally flawed and that the decision to expand Heathrow is at odds with the UK’s overall climate change targets. If they win, the Government’s decision to proceed with the runway will be overturned.
The organisations also argue, supported by Transport for London, that there is no evidence to support the Government’s claim that there will be enough public transport to serve the new runway.
The decision to proceed with a third runway was made by the then Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon in a statement to Parliament in January 2009. He tried to win Parliament over by proposing a number of additional environmental measures. The coalition is alleging that these measures mean the expansion is fundamentally different to the proposals on which the Government consulted the public in 2007. Worse still, the Government's lawyers are now backpedalling by claiming the new measures were not part of the decision to expand Heathrow.
One of the measures announced was a new target to bring carbon emissions from aviation back to 2005 levels by 2050. The Government asked the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) how it could meet this target. The CCC responded by telling the Government it would have to severely curtail its plans for airport expansion throughout the UK. The coalition argues that the expansion of Heathrow cannot now proceed, since the policy of which it is a part has been discredited.
Another of the measures would see the runway only being used at half its capacity until a review in 2020 could check to see if noise and air pollution as well as carbon targets could be met. But imposing this limit destroys the economic case for a third runway and will be no comfort to the residents of the Sipson, since their village would be destroyed either way.
Cllr Barbara Reid, Hounslow Council’s lead member for aviation, said:
“We’ve had no choice but to go to court to sort out the mess left behind after the decision was made to proceed with the third runway. As a result we are joining forces with our allies, including Hillingdon, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils, to fight this decision.
“The history of Heathrow expansion is littered with broken promises, which is why we are determined to do everything in our power to make our argument heard and if the only way to do that is to drag the Government into court, then so be it.”
Alistair McGowan, who is one of the owners of the 'Airplot' in Sipson, said:
"I'm here today because, like the residents of Sipson, I'm enraged about the Government's seemingly unquenchable passion to tarmac over my land - land which I now own with over 65,000 people from around the world. I hope that the ministers who wouldn't listen to already suffering west Londoners, highly respected climate scientists or battling local councils will listen to the courts. I don't want to end up having to fend off BAA with a pitchfork and a large bull."
Geraldine Nicholson, Chair of NoTRAG, said:
“A third runway would destroy our community. Homes, schools, shops, pubs would all be demolished. That is destruction on a massive scale. What rubs even more salt into our wounds is our firm belief that the consultation process was seriously flawed.”
Martin Harper, RSPB, Head of Sustainable Development said:
"We have said before that the Government's decision to allow a third runway when we desperately need to reduce carbon emissions was fundamentally flawed.
Climate change threatens many species with extinction and we are already seeing its impacts with catastrophic declines in seabird numbers in parts of the North Sea. It is right that a bad decision such as this should be challenged"
HACAN Chair John Stewart said:
“Although it is clear that a third runway may well be scrapped after the General Election, we can’t take anything for granted. If we lose this legal challenge, it will not be the end of the world, but, if we win, it will make it ever more difficult for any Government to build the third runway.”
Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: "Proceeding with the third runway would destroy not just a village and a large swathe of Green Belt but also tranquillity over a much wider area. Countryside, parks and gardens in and beyond north and west London would fall under the shadow of new flight paths and the din of thousands of extra flights."