The leaders of three London councils have written to the new Secretary of State for Transport threatening legal action if the new cabinet gives Heathrow expansion the green light.
The Leaders of Richmond, Hillingdon and Wandsworth Councils wrote to Chris Grayling MP after hearing reports that a decision on aviation capacity could be made in early September.
The letter welcomes the prospect of a decision: “We all agree that after six years of dithering …. we need a swift outcome”.
It continues: “Your commitment to rule on this issue in early September is very welcome indeed.”
But it is clear on the intention to commence legal action: “We … intend to launch a legal challenge against the Government in the unfortunate event that it resolves to support Heathrow expansion or to carry out any further investigatory works into these projects.”
The Leader of Hillingdon Council, Cllr Ray Puddifoot, said: “I’m glad that the Secretary of State has made it clear that the government will make this decision and not duck the responsibility for this issue any longer. Having been promised by the last Prime Minister that Heathrow would not be expanded and that the environment and the health and wellbeing of the people would take precedent over profit, I have every faith in Chris Grayling and Theresa May opposing expansion for the same reasons.
“There is a realistic and viable alternative in Gatwick, which could be delivered faster and with less damage to our environment and our people. However, Hillingdon along with other councils has prepared a substantial and strong legal challenge to any proposed expansion at Heathrow should the government renege on its promise.”
The Leader of Wandsworth Council, Ravi Govindia, said: “Heathrow expansion is unlawful, undeliverable and would create a severe political and social rupture at a time when our country desperately needs unity. Gatwick is a far better option on every level.”
It’s unclear what the outcome of legal action would be. Many of the laws this challenge might depend on are derived from EU legislation, which might well no longer be in force when the action is heard.
Heathrow, for their part, maintain that expansion at the airport can be achieved within legal limits, recently committing to satisfy all the conditions placed on it by the Davies Commission.