UK Government loses legal case for third runway at Heathrow Airport

Computer rendering of the planned Heathrow expansion. Image: © Heathrow Airport

The UK Court of Appeal has declared the UK’s plans for a third runway at London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, as illegal. The case, led by climate activists, was won based on the the plans for a third runway not being in line with the government’s commitments to the environment with regard to the Paris climate agreement.

The airport, which runs at 98.8% capacity, has been seeking approval and go-ahead for a third runway construction for many years, and today’s news comes as yet another setback. The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is against plans to expand Heathrow, and spent a period of time in his position as London Mayor campaigning for an all new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary instead.

Despite the ruling, the UK Government says it will not appeal the decision, instead continuing to look into other options, including finding economic and industry based justifications for expanding the airport. In June 2019, the Government set a legal goal to be net zero emissions by 2050, by either using renewable energy or offsetting any carbon output from industry, transport and homes.

Heathrow Airport itself, however, plans to appeal the decision. In a statement in response to the  announcement, the airport says “We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident that we will be successful. In the meantime, we are ready to work with the Government to fix the issue that the court has raised.” It then goes on to say “We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future. Let’s get Heathrow done.