British Supreme Court: Heathrow can still continue with expansion plans

July 5, 2021 by No Comments

Heathrow may continue with construction plans for a third runway, the British Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. The country’s highest judiciary has thus rejected a February ruling by the London court. That court banned the expansion plans of the London airport, because Heathrow thereby violated targets agreed in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

According to the Supreme Court, the airport’s expansion plans are legal because they date from a time when less stringent climate targets were in force. Despite the fact that construction will take place after the Paris agreement has been concluded, the plans may meet less strict climate targets, according to the court. Incidentally, the judgment does not establish that the third runway will actually be built. Heathrow first has to convince a public commission of inquiry of the need for the expansions, then the British government has the last word.

Heathrow last year presented the complete ‘master plan’ for expansion, which will run until 2050. The key point was the plan to have a third runway completed by 2026. In addition, new terminals also had to be built, for which Heathrow wanted to move rivers and roads. The first lawsuit was brought, among others, by the organization Friends of the Earth, a partnership of environmental organizations worldwide.

130 million passengers

Before the corona crisis, Heathrow was one of the busiest airports in the world, with about 80 million passengers annually. The third runway, with a price tag of 14 billion pounds (15.5 billion euros), should allow seven hundred extra flights daily and increase the total number of passengers to 130 million per year. According to the British government, this would allow Heathrow to continue to compete with other major European airports. Heathrow previously announced that construction plans for the third runway will be postponed by up to five years due to the corona crisis.

When the judge canceled Heathrow’s plans in February this year, Dutch environmental organizations also said they were “delighted”. According to them, the ruling had an influence on the Dutch plans to expand Schiphol and Lelystad Airport, because it was the first time that a judge reinforced the Paris agreement. The Noord-Holland Environmental Federation planned to use the ruling to go to court in the Netherlands. According to that organization, the plans for the expansion of Schiphol and Lelystad Airport are “in no way compatible” with the Paris climate agreement. It is not immediately clear whether the ruling of the British Supreme Court has consequences for the Dutch situation.