Published on Wednesday, May 1, 2019

High Court ruling on Heathrow expansion branded 'utter madness'


Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis has branded a High Court decision to reject a challenge to Heathrow's expansion as 'utter madness'.

He said a third runway will be regarded as 'the worst decision every made by the Department for Transport' and claimed that it was 'inevitable' that the expansion would be cancelled due to climate change fears.

Five councils, residents, environmental charities and London Mayor Sadiq Khan brought a High Court case against transport secretary Chris Grayling after MPs backed his plan for Heathrow's expansion last June.

The campaigners claimed in court that the additional runway would have a severe impact on Londoners by effectively creating a new airport. They argued that the government's National Policy Statement setting out its support for the project, failed to account fully for the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

However, judges ruled the plans were lawful and rejected their arguments. Lawyers representing Grayling had told the court that the claimants' case was 'premature' as they would have the opportunity to make representations at a later stage in the planning process.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom, sitting with Mr Justice Holgate, said in the ruling on Wednesday: "We understand that these claims involve underlying issues upon which the parties - and indeed many members of the public - hold strong and sincere views.

"There was a tendency for the substance of the parties' positions to take more of a centre stage than perhaps it should have done, in a hearing that was only concerned with the legality, and not the merits, of the Airports National Policy Statement."

The ruling means the government will not have to devise a new NPS and put it to another vote in Parliament. It won its first vote by a majority of 296.

However, Francis said: "The UK is on track to miss its legally binding targets set under the Climate Change Act. In coming days The Committee on Climate Change (the independent statuary body established to advise the UK Government on emissions targets) is likely to recommend that these targets be made tougher to keep us below 1.5 degrees warming

"Heathrow Airport is the single biggest source of CO2emissions in the UK. The DfT wants to double air travel by 2050. There really couldn't be a clearer disconnect between the science and Government policy."

He also claimed the third runway was 'bad economics' as it's estimated that climate change will reduce GDP by 5% to 25%.

"Aviation is already a very heavily subsidised industry as aviation fuel is exempt from tax and duty. The tax subsidy in the UK is £6.6 billion, or £240 per household whether you fly or not.

"Making a massive investment in this already heavily subsidised and highly polluting industry makes no economic sense. Instead the money should be invested in making the UK a world leader in electric and other forms of decarbonised air travel.

""Finally, there is a major social justice issue here. Nearly 50% of the UK population doesn't fly. A remarkable 70% of flights are taken by just 15% of people.

"An expanded Heathrow will provide no benefit to a large proportion of our population, and yet whether we fly or not all of us, and our children and grandchildren, will suffer the consequences of global warming. Insanity reaches new heights when we discover that most of the beneficiaries of an expanded Heathrow won't even be British. The New Economics Foundation estimates that 75% of the passengers using an expanded Heathrow by 2040 will not be from the UK. They will be international transfers."

However, on hearing the High Court decision, ABTA said that it was important that 'urgent progress' is made on delivering additional airport capacity.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "Forecasts show our airports are quickly reaching capacity, especially at Heathrow - the UK's main international gateway. Additional airport capacity in the South East is vital to the UK's future economic prospects and enhancing our global competitiveness, and all the more important following the decision to leave the EU."

"ABTA supports expansion, but we are clear that full consideration must be given to the environmental impact on local communities. This is why we supported the Government's commitment to deliver expansion at Heathrow within legal air quality requirements, as well as the inclusion of a package of mitigating measures.

"ABTA believes it is vital for Heathrow and airlines to continue to work with local communities, and we support the establishment of the Heathrow Community Engagement Board, which will ensure Heathrow engages with local residents and stakeholders throughout the planning process and construction phase. We also welcome the establishment of the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise to produce guidance on the process for taking future airspace change decisions."

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  • Reality

    Climate change is happening and there are many giving us reasons why and why not. However the bigger picture means that the UK has increase its revenue to pay for all the services required by its people. This is why it believes that expansion at Heathrow is necessary. If we dont another country will take up the slack. Thus moving the problem from one country to another and the UK loses out on the way. The real answer is for new planes to create less carbon. But as I understand it if all planes were grounded the effect on cliamte change in the UK would hardly be effected. Industry and lorries contribbute much more.

    By Paul Johnston, Thursday, May 2, 2019

  • The tide is turning

    Michael you're peddling fake news and you know it. The scientific consensus on climate change is clear, and public opinion is moving decisively in favour of doing something to tackle it, including within our industry. The vested interests are the fossil fuel companies who have pumped millions into opaque lobby groups to try and cast doubt on the science, aided by useful idiots like yourself.

    By Tom O'Hara, Thursday, May 2, 2019

  • Seriously?

    Michael you need to do some reading because seriously no right minded person doesn't believe that Man is contributing massively to our changing climate

    By Tim Williamson, Thursday, May 2, 2019

  • seriously, no right minded person

    believes in man made climate change anymore. Only those with vested interests keep pushing it.

    By Michael Anderson, Thursday, May 2, 2019

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