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New Heathrow Runway Thrown Out By Judges

February 27, 2020

By Paul Homewood

 As had been trailed, the Court of Appeal have thrown out plans for Heathrow’s third runway:


Campaigners have won a Court of Appeal ruling over controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport on environmental grounds.

A group of councils in London affected by the expansion, environmental charities including Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth and Plan B, and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, brought legal action over the Government’s approval of the plans.

Judges singled out the former transport secretary Chris Grayling in their ruling, agreeing with lawyers for the campaign groups that he had not enough consideration was given to the environment in his plans.

The UN’s Paris Agreement, which came into force in November 2016, commits signatories to tackling climate change by taking measures to limit global warming to well below 2C.

But giving their ruling on Thursday, Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave said the Government did not take enough account of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change when setting out its support for the proposals in its National Policy Statement (NPS).


Significantly the Court rejected all of the other appeals, notably concerning noise and air quality issues. The only one they allowed was the climate issue.

The reference to the Paris Agreement seems to be a spurious one, as none of its signatories actually committed to any actions that would keep warming below 2C. Indeed, the specific plans in total would lead to a large increase in emissions by 2030.

The UK, as part of the EU commitment, agreed to reductions in emissions, which are built into its carbon budgets and are on track. It is difficult to see what legal right three judges have in dictating to the government how these reductions should be managed. Particularly when the Heathrow expansion was overwhelmingly approved by Parliament.

What this judgement does do is open the floodgates to challenges to any and every infrastructure development the green loons don’t like.

Meanwhile China is planning to double its number of airports, according to CNN last year:

China currently has around 235 airports, but with many lacking the capacity to sustain the coming increase in passenger numbers and flights, government officials estimate around 450 airports will be needed across the country by 2035.

That’s the same year aviation analysts predict China will be handling a quarter of all the world’s air passengers.

  1. ianprsy permalink
    February 27, 2020 2:31 pm

    The beginning of the end of UK as an economic force, or a wake up call?

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      February 28, 2020 8:58 am

      Woke up call?

  2. Joe Public permalink
    February 27, 2020 2:32 pm

    “The UN’s Paris Agreement, which came into force in November 2016, commits signatories to tackling climate change by taking measures to limit global warming to well below 2C.”

    FFS – China’s to build 216 new airports

    It’s not as though China is compensating elsewhere to reduce its carbon footprint.

    Check out Carbon Brief’s ‘Mapped: The world’s coal power plants’, and select ‘Region: China’, then move slider to ‘future’.

    New plants under construction: 128,650 MW, Planned: 69,950 MW

  3. Ian Magness permalink
    February 27, 2020 2:38 pm

    This is extraordinary and very sad. Reading the BBC website (!) it seems that the Heathrow high court judges have decided that, in effect, both the meaning and intent of the risible Climate Change Act and the Paris Accord are legally binding upon us and indeed override all other considerations. My understanding was that the Climate Change Act could legally apply to a degree (after all it is a legal commitment), but not Paris (which is not legally binding on anyone).
    Even then, I can’t see why the CCA should apply to a specific development like Heathrow as nobody can produce real evidence that enlarging it would actually change/damage the climate. Surely, there should be such a test of effect in law? Where’s the common sense?
    I hope Heathrow challenges it but, apart from the fact this will put another year plus of delay into the system, the ultimate arbiters will be the Supreme Court – and we know where their political affiliations lie after trying to stop Brexit.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 27, 2020 3:13 pm

      Paris isn’t legally binding. But worse than the Climate Change Act is the Zero Carbon commitment that Parliament enacted under May. It seems that we get bad legislation when there is about to be a change of PM. The same happened over Ed Miliband’s 2010 Energy Act that gave supremacy to green interests over consumer interests.

      Zero carbon entails shutting all airports by 2050. So say the Absolute Zeros.

    • dennisambler permalink
      February 28, 2020 11:05 am

      In the current Assange hearing on extradition, arguments are made about international treaties:

      Assange’s lawyer states that “a treaty could not be binding in English law unless specifically incorporated in English law by Parliament. This was a necessary democratic defence. Treaties were made by the executive which could not make law. This went to the sovereignty of Parliament. Lewis quoted many judgements stating that international treaties signed and ratified by the UK could not be enforced in British courts. “It may come as a surprise to other countries that their treaties with the British government can have no legal force” he joked.”

      Boris is accepting this because it is what he wanted. When attempting to stop Brexit, those involved were very concerned to “protect the sovereignty of Parliament”.

  4. Ian Cook permalink
    February 27, 2020 2:52 pm

    When today’s judges come up against something parliament has voted for, or particularly something Tory, then they find it unacceptable. The reasons can be blatantly stupid, indeed they seem to revel in stupid judgements, as it shows that they, actually are in charge. Oh, and that they are also in thrall to the cult of Climate Change, confirming that they are complete gimps. Dorks, First Class. If brains were made of elastic, they’d be pushed to keep their knickers up.

  5. GeoffB permalink
    February 27, 2020 3:27 pm

    As long as the climate change act is in the statute book, then rulings like this will continue. Drax wants to build 3.5 GW CCGT (gas) plant , it is approved by the minister at the time , overruling both the government inspector and local planning who refused permission. Greens are now taking court action to overturn the approval and based on the Heathrow result will almost certainly win. It will be interesting to see what stance the government takes on this, as they have backed down on the Heathrow runway.
    Another point If Debens CCC are relying on carbon capture to enable hydrogen production from steam reformation of methane(natural gas) then why not use carbon capture to enable natural gas to continue to generate electricity and forget about the windmills.
    We seem to have lost sight of the fact that any warming has ceased and carbon dioxide has never been proven as the cause of warming.

  6. mjr permalink
    February 27, 2020 3:51 pm

    Unfortunately the current legal system and judiciary is now politicised and populated by the trendy left metropolitan elite. So declare anything pro brexit illegal. Declare Climate change act as superior to all other laws.. Yet disallow a judicial review into the BBC bias – see
    This is the same mentality that has PC plod acting as thought police

  7. February 27, 2020 4:18 pm

    You can’t see it, but this is my shocked face!

  8. Mike Jackson permalink
    February 27, 2020 4:21 pm

    Personally I’d be delighted not to see a third runway at Heathrow since, from all I’ve read and been told, there is genuinely every environmental reason to oppose it, from the immediate environmental vandalism to the local neighbourhood and the crass idiocy of augmenting even further inbound flights across the centre of the nation’s capital city to the inevitable increase in air pollution without any evidence that increasing passenger throughput by the figures quoted will bring any benefit to the UK at all.

    Heathrow is a hub which almost by definition means it caters predominantly for transit passengers and the argument that increased capacity will be needed for freight is irrelevant. Freight will move out of whichever local airport is convenient and has the facilities.

    However … it seems quite clear that the Court has misdirected itself with regard to the Paris Accord but it is overly simple to say (apologies, mjr) that courts have suddenly become politicised and this is another example of anti-brexit activity by the judiciary. WE know that the Paris Accord isn’t worth the paper it’s written on because we pay attention. But it is SUPPOSED to be a legally-binding agreement which the UK signed up to and which along with the Climate Change Act and all that flows therefrom set the politico-environmental objectives for the next 30 years.

    One can hardly blame a UK Court for acting as it did if its members believe that is what the law requires! It is, after all, what everyone from Johnson down is telling us. Isn’t it?

    • Ivan permalink
      February 27, 2020 5:23 pm

      Heathrow is the UK’s largest port (not just airport) by value of freight moved. The freight is mostly carried on passenger flights, as there are few freight-only flights at Heathrow and most of the origin/destinations would not justify freight-only flights of a sufficient frequency. There are freight-only flights in Britain, and these are mostly from other airports, but only form a small part of the air freight market.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      February 27, 2020 7:34 pm

      There are lots of of distribution centres being or built along the M1. Around East Midlands, already an air freight centre there are DHL, M&S, Amazon and Aldi with others I can’t remember. Further south there’s H&M.
      EMA is close to the M1 for North East and South distribution. The M42 gives access to Birmingham and South West. The A50 gives access to the M6 and Glasgow, Dundee and it is possible to drive from EMA to Aberdeen on motorway or dual carriageway the whole way.

      The East Midlands and EMA owners should get together and pickup what Heathrow has lost. With HS2 going to the Toton Goods Hub everything is in place. Boris doesn’t need to leave Downing Street to keep most of his new East Midlands supporters happy, apart from those in Kegworth and his supporters in the Home Counties equally content. Are you listening Dominic?

  9. February 27, 2020 4:28 pm

    Britain’s economic ecosuicide continues. Britain’s economy now can be compared to someone driving an electric car in sub-zero temperature at full speed in the overtaking lane of a smart motorway.

  10. Jackington permalink
    February 27, 2020 5:07 pm

    I would have been surprised if the court had given the expansion the go ahead because the UK is required by law to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. There is only one way that Heathrow will be compliant by 2050 and that is by carbon off – setting, which is run by dodgy geezers.

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      February 27, 2020 5:57 pm

      If you were to carry through the logic of your answer to its conclusion, then any activity that does or might increase carbon dioxide emissions could be seen as unlawful. That would be preposterous.

      • keith holland permalink
        February 28, 2020 4:15 pm

        Absolute Zero report for the Government stated all UK airports must be closed by 2050, along with all seaports.

  11. Paul R permalink
    February 27, 2020 5:08 pm

    There’ll be more of this if some of our learned friends get their way..

    • Mack permalink
      February 27, 2020 6:06 pm

      Very interesting point Paul. It seems that the International Bar Association wants to enable citizens to seek judicial reviews on the ‘sufficiency’ of their government’s measures to address climate change and not to be penalised by facing ruinous costs should they lose any of these actions. Obviously, they appear to be keen for our masters to be brought firmly under the green jackboot.

      But, thinking outside of the box slightly, such a tool could also be very useful to a litigious skeptic. Such an individual could quite easily bring an action on the ‘sufficiency’ standpoint by producing ample documentary, historical, geological and meteorological evidence plus an all star cast of some of the finest scientists in the world to demonstrate that no government could ever take ‘sufficient’ enough action to tackle climate change as humans have so little influence over it in the first place. What’s good for the goose…

    • keith holland permalink
      February 28, 2020 4:16 pm

      Of course they will, these lawyers are just leeches for a fast buck.

  12. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 27, 2020 5:54 pm

    It’s chilling, way beyond the climate issue. Like I said in the recent past, whilst Brexit was the distraction, democracy and parliament is being bypassed by countries signing up to ostensibly voluntary agreements e.g. on migrant rights – that will inevitably be used by activists to bolster court cases against governments. It is the beginning of national sovereignty effectively being handed over to the UN. In essence the UN has just been told by our courts that it can dictate our energy, transport, infrastructure, etc. policies.

    Heathrow is a massive quality of life issue already, and the sensible decision would be to move it to a place with a new high speed rail link and no local population, and use the space for a country park at best, or housing at worst.

  13. Pancho Plail permalink
    February 27, 2020 5:58 pm

    In my view it was the right decision for entirely the wrong reason.

  14. Colin MacDonald permalink
    February 27, 2020 6:15 pm

    Nobody has any evidence that enlarging Heathrow will have any measurable impact on UK emissions either. Aviation will find a way round it, UK regional airports will offer more flights to other hubs, point to point flights will increase.
    I actually oppose the expansion of Heathrow, it isn’t as London suffers from a lack of development and the natives have no desire for it to turn further into a global megalopolis, an enlarged Dubai with rain.

    • keith holland permalink
      February 28, 2020 4:19 pm

      Absolute Zero report for the Government stated all regional airports must be closed by 2030.

  15. February 27, 2020 10:38 pm

    ‘The government’s Heathrow’s expansion decision was unlawful because it did not take climate commitments into account, the Court of Appeal said.’ – BBC News

    What’s this then? ‘Climate change’ appears 60 times in the document…

    Department for Transport
    Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England

    Presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 9(8) of the Planning Act 2008
    June 2018

    3.7 The Government agrees with the Airports Commission’s assessment that a new runway is deliverable within the UK’s climate change obligations.

    Click to access airports-nps-new-runway-capacity-and-infrastructure-at-airports-in-the-south-east-of-england-web-version.pdf

    – – –
    Court: ‘The National Planning Statement was not produced as the law requires.’
    Govt. doc: ‘Presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 9(8) of the Planning Act 2008.’

  16. February 28, 2020 8:40 am

    If Paris and Amsterdam can have world class airports why is London lumbered with 1990s infrastructure?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      February 28, 2020 2:04 pm

      Their politicians aren’t as stupid as ours…..

  17. Pancho Plail permalink
    February 28, 2020 9:07 am

    A letter in this morning’s DT suggests developing Birmingham airport which will be linked to HS2. It makes a lot of sense to me to have a centrally located major airport that is less than an hour’s rail travel from most major British centres of population.
    However, planning a massive increase in aircraft capacity does seem to be in direct contradiction of the environmental plans of the government. Do we take it that perhaps they are not entirely serious about one of them?

    • Ivan permalink
      February 28, 2020 11:50 am

      People write such stuff quite often, but it fails to reflect business reality. You can build airports but you can’t make airlines fly to them if they don’t want to. This was the fundamental flaw, for example, of the Boris Island Airport idea. That is why the Airports Commission rejected these ideas. Then people come back and say them again sometime later.

      The kind of airlines that offer longhaul services which carry lots of valuable air freight want to fly to airports that lots of other airlines fly to. So none of them was going to move out of Heathrow to Boris Island, unless they all did. You can get a handful of services based on a local market, as for example Manchester and Glasgow do, but not the broad range of services unless you are an established hub.

      You can see the truth of this in the sad story, for example, of Mirabel Airport, Montreal, which was supposed to replace Dorval (now Trudeau) Airport, but failed because the airlines didn’t want to go there, even though for a while some of them were forced to.

  18. Mad Mike permalink
    February 28, 2020 10:21 am

    What we feared is happening with a pressure group considering challenging the building of various road schemes because the CO2 emissions target for 100% drop by 2050 were either not in the evaluations of plans or only considered when the 80% that was the target at that time.

    It is from the BBC but i think we might believe them this time.

    Looks like economic suicide has started.

  19. calnorth permalink
    February 28, 2020 10:26 am

    A lorry driver on LBC this morning said that freight was being lifted from Heathrow and driven to Luxembourg for onward airfreight. Thats a 20 ton lift at a time…Theifrow?

  20. avro607 permalink
    February 28, 2020 6:53 pm

    I always understood that the Paris commitments were only voluntary,and not enshrined in law.
    Am I correct?

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