The action brought by four councils and Greenpeace against the Government’s choice of Heathrow as the location of the next runway in the South East has failed.
The High Court has ruled that any judicial review examining the legality of the third runway scheme, including its air quality impacts, cannot be heard until after designation of a National Policy Statement (NPS) on aviation, expected in 2018.
The councils, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead, together with Greenpeace UK and a Hillingdon resident, condemned what they called “the Department for Transport’s move to delay a legal challenge”, and maintain that they will continue to fight against expansion.
The councils argue that an expanded R3 will not be able to comply with air quality rules, and therefore their case should be heard now to avoid “more time and taxpayers’ money being wasted”, as well as arguing that there was insufficient consultation, despite the years taken by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission to make a recommendation, and the period of Government consideration that followed.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “Today’s ruling is not the end of Heathrow’s problems, it is just the first step in what will be a losing battle for them and the Government, neither of which can get around the problem of unlawful air quality impacts, let alone all of the other issues it faces. The blatant waste of public money by the Government at this time is lamentable.”
Ravi Govindia leader of Wandsworth Council said: “The Government has taken a colossal gamble by delaying this legal action for at least a year. The country is now going to waste more time developing a scheme that will never pass a simple legal test on air quality. Nothing is going to change between now and 2018 to make this scheme any less polluting so they should face this challenge now or abandon the third runway.”
Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “We will be a thorn in the Government’s side until sense prevails.”
A spokesman for Back Heathrow said: “Today’s decision is welcome news for the majority of local communities near Heathrow who back the airport’s expansion.
“A new runway has significant public and parliamentary support and can be safely delivered in the national interest. We urge the leaders of the four councils to immediately stop wasting any more taxpayers’ money on legal challenges that are doomed to failure.”
A recent Hounslow Council poll of residents in the borough showed more support for expansion than opposition.