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New twist for potential third runway at London Heathrow


Whether it ever happens or not is another matter, but a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport is now potentially back on the agenda following the Supreme Court ruling that the government’s decision to approve its expansion was lawful.

Today’s ruling overturns a decision by three leading judges earlier this year that former Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, failed to take into account the government’s commitment to tackling climate change, outlined in the the Paris Agreement, when setting out support for the project in an Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS).

Airport operator, Heathrow Airport Limited, can now apply for planning permission to build the new runway, but its approval is far from a certainty as it will face numerous environmental challenges and at the end of the day the final decision to build or not will rest with the government.

Heathrow responded to the news by issuing the following statement: “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.

“Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.

The first BA Airbus A380 arrives on the southern runway at Heathrow Airport. picture David Dyson

“The Government has made decarbonising aviation a central part of its green growth agenda, through wider use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel as well as new technology.

“As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure their safety and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps.”

Not surprisingly the unions backed the ruling, acting general secretary of the GMB, Warren Kenny, stating: “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.”

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