Heathrow expansion to be challenged in court

| 23rd July 2019
Sunset over Heathrow. Photo: Malcolm via Flickr (CC BY-NC).
Sunset over Heathrow. Photo: Malcolm via Flickr (CC BY-NC).
Court of Appeal to hear application for further challenge to climate-wrecking Heathrow expansion.


The campaign against the expansion of Heathrow airport has been given a new lease of life. 

Friends of the Earth has been granted a hearing at the Court of Appeal for an application for permission to appeal a ruling by the High Court in relation to the expansion.

In October this year, the court will hear the application to appeal the decision that the government had not breached its sustainable development duties by allowing the expansion of Heathrow. If the Court of Appeal grants permission, it will proceed immediately to a substantive appeal hearing.

Legal challenges 

The High Court ruled on 1 May 2019 that the government’s decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport was lawful.

This followed legal challenges brought by a number of environmental NGOs, pressure groups and local councils which were heard collectively by the court in March 2019.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth, represented by law firm Leigh Day, brought one of the legal challenges, focusing on the climate change impact of a third runway. They argued that the government’s decision to allow expansion was unlawful as it failed to explain how such expansion fitted with the UK’s climate change policy.

Friends of the Earth also claimed that the decision breached the Department for Transport’s sustainable development duties in failing to have regard to the desirability of mitigating climate change for future generations. This was specifically due to: not considering the UN’s Paris Agreement, the lack of any climate policy beyond the 2050 target under the Climate Change Act, and the failure to factor in any impact from the non-CO2 contribution of aviation to climate breakdown.

Damaging decision 

Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “This case is about saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. We need to leave the world in a better state for our children and their children, not a worse one.

"This means ditching the expansion of high carbon infrastructure projects like the third runway at Heathrow. Expanding Heathrow will only benefit a minority of people, while leaving us all to suffer the awful impact on the environment.

“We are pleased the Court of Appeal has agreed to hear our case for appeal against the damaging decision to increase the UK’s single biggest source of climate pollution at Heathrow.”

Rowan Smith, solicitor in the environmental law team at law firm Leigh Day, said: “We are delighted that our client has been given a hearing at the Court of Appeal to argue why they feel an appeal should be granted.

"This news comes in the wake of the UK government’s new net zero target under the Climate Change Act and heavily critical advice from the Committee on Climate Change that more must be done, and faster, if we are to avoid climate catastrophe."

Significantly damaging

Smith continued: "Friends of the Earth strongly believes that a third runway at Heathrow would have a significantly damaging impact on the UK’s climate change goals.

“On top of the issues already raised by our client, we hope that our defeat of the government’s primary argument, that the Secretary of State could simply ignore the global heating reduction targets of the Paris Agreement, will add further weight to the appeal if granted and cause the Court of Appeal to rule that the government’s decision on Heathrow expansion is unlawful.”

This Author 

Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release by Friends of the Earth. 

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