First legal challenge to Heathrow runway set to take off

Councils say plans are ‘dishonest’ and ‘deeply flawed’

Four London councils have written to the UK Government saying they will start legal action against the Government unless it withdraws support for the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Solicitors for Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead Councils have written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling demanding he changes his decision to back the third runway or they will launch a judicial review.

The letter gives ministers 14 days to reverse their decision to back a third runway. If they fail to comply judicial review proceedings will begin in the High Court.

Legal proceedings will be based on allegations that the Government’s approach to air quality and noise is unlawful, and that it failed to carry out a fair and lawful consultation exercise before issuing its decision.

The proceedings also highlight the many promises and statements made by senior politicians confirming that the third runway would not be built.

Both the current and previous UK Prime Ministers said there would be no third runway at Heathrow

The move comes shortly after the Government’s air quality plans were overturned in the High Court, putting ministers under greater pressure to reduce illegal levels of air pollution in places like Heathrow.

The latest court ruling rejected the current government plans to tackle emissions as inadequate and based on over optimistic assumptions.

Lord True Leader of Richmond Council:

“Heathrow expansion is one of the worst government decisions in modern times –

  • dishonest, in that it reverses a clear commitment;
  • incompetent, in that it took six years to get to Base A (from which it will never proceed);
  • indefensible economically, in that it is the most costly and polluting option and the most likely to involve charges on public funds;
  • illogical, in that it is the slowest to deliver and a staggering affront to every principle of competition and careless of the public good, in that is the most polluting and the most disruptive of the public.

This legal challenge is only one route to block the Heathrow juggernaut. There will be others.”

Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council:

“Heathrow expansion is incompatible with environmental legislation and the process leading up to this decision has been deeply flawed. Ministers have not listened to our warnings so we have no choice but to take legal action.

“The simple truth is that Heathrow is in the wrong place for a major airport and its location amplifies its damaging impacts to world beating levels. Expansion will make this dire situation much worse.

“An objective assessment from the High Court is bound to conclude that you can’t mitigate against such a bad location.”

Harrison Grant Solicitors has been working with the claimants over several months to develop the case against Heathrow expansion.

An alliance between Greenpeace and local councils successfully overturned the Government’s backing for a third runway in the High Court in 2010, which prompted the incoming Cameron Government to emphatically rule it out.

The claimants say today’s Heathrow expansion scheme is even bigger and has more severe environmental impacts than the 2010 proposal, and will fail the same legal tests. They argue that new evidence on the severe health impacts of air and noise pollution make the new scheme far less likely to pass judicial review.