A £14 billion plan for a third runway at Heathrow Airport has been given the go ahead by Supreme Court judges today.

The project was grounded in February when the Court of Appeal ruled that ex-Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had wrongly given expansion project the green light in 2018. Today’s decision overturns February’s verdict, deemed to be a victory by environmental campaigners, and rules that the runway expansion is lawful.

A statement on Heathrow Airport’s website today read: “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.”

Additional capacity will allow sovereign Britain to compete against rivals

The statement added: “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. The ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require Heathrow to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.”

The statement concluded that the government had made decarbonising aviation a central part of the green growth agenda, through wider use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel and new technology. It added that the airport would now consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on its next steps.

Supreme Court judge Lord Sale said Grayling had acted lawfully when approving the expansion, rejecting an argument from campaigners that UK targets on emissions had not been properly considered. The dispute centred on whether the government had properly assessed whether it could meet emission targets from a third runway at Heathrow following the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Lord Sale said: “The court finds that the Secretary of State did take the Paris Agreement into account. He was not legally required to give it more weight than he decided was appropriate, in line with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change.”

Environmental campaigners pledge to continue fight against third runway

But environmental campaigners have said the fight against a new runway at Heathrow will continue and have urged the government to block any plans for a third runway. The decision will pose difficulties for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has previously expressed his opposition to the new runway which would be located near to his Uxbridge constituency.

A statement on the Friends of the Earth website, which brought the legal challenge said: “The Supreme Court judgment is by no means a “green light”. Boris Johnson has the power to scrap the policy decision to support Heathrow expansion. If enough of us speak out, Heathrow’s third runway can still be stopped.”


Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter