The Supreme Court’s decision to clear the path for Heathrow’s third runway has been given a welcome in the Thames Valley.
The plans were declared unlawful on environmental grounds by the Court of Appeal in February but the airport took the case to the Supreme Court.
Now the Supreme Court has found that the Secretary of State had taken the Paris Agreement into account and has ruled in favour of the Government’s decision to proceed with expansion.
In a statement, the airport said: “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.
“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.
“Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.
“The Government has made decarbonising aviation a central part of its green growth agenda, through wider use of sustainable aviation fuel as well as new technology. As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure their safety and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps.”
Laura Fitzgerald, director at Thames Tap partner mode Transport Planning, said: “As someone fortunate to have been able to take a pre-Covid holiday this year, I was thinking about the third runway debate when we were circling around London for half an hour waiting to land at Heathrow.
“Whilst a scenic view, it’s not a welcome addition to a long-haul flight and clearly demonstrates how stretched Heathrow is at present.
“In my view, the additional runway is a mechanism to improve the capacity of the airport. This is not throwing the towel in over emissions and climate change; far from it, but that is a different matter.
“In order to achieve planning permission for the additional runway capacity, Heathrow will need to commit to, and achieve, what are arguably more stringent targets for emissions from air and ground travel than any other development.
“We are all aware of the climate emergency and the net zero carbon agenda and Heathrow will be no exception to this. All types of engines are currently being pushed into new fuel areas and this will, in time, feed into making Heathrow a more sustainable place.
“But what does a third runway do? It provides the capacity to allow the ever-increasing demand for air travel to be fulfilled in a location that already has ground transport infrastructure available and committed (the Western Rail Link facilitates this).”
Leader of Slough Borough Council, Cllr James Swindlehurst said the ruling is positive, not just for Slough, but the whole UK.
He went on: “As a town closely associated with Heathrow, the economic impact covid has had on the airport has been acutely felt among our residents and businesses and this has been compounded by the impending economic shock of ongoing economic uncertainty around post-Brexit arrangements.
“The current Government has failed to offer strategic support to the aviation industry during the pandemic and the restoration of the policy statement, allowing expansion to take place, should be a wake up call to those in government – there is no bigger ‘build back better’ project for the UK than an expanded Heathrow and the Government should be throwing its weight behind it.”
Richard Stacey, managing director of Evoke Transport Planning, called it a brave decision and one which makes Western Rail Link to Heathrow more important than ever.
He said: “Clearly, the investment in significant infrastructure at this time is to send out a message in the covid and Brexit world that we are committed to using investment in large scale projects and to aid economic recovery.
“Whether there is the same market for air travel going forward taking into account the changes in travel behaviour with Covid and environmental concerns and whether this is the right investment at this time is a matter of considerable debate.
“Clearly, for the Thames Valley and West London this is a monumental decision which presents a much needed economic signal that the region will lead the economic future of the country.
“The Government will want to send a clear message to the international community that the third runway means the UK is gearing up to remain open for business beyond Europe.”
However, he warned there is a long way to go before a spade goes in the ground.
Cllr Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council, was more guarded about the expansion.
He said: “Hounslow Council has long-held that we want the airport to be successful, as it plays such an important role in the economic lives of our residents, and our status as the gateway borough to London.
“That is even more important as we come to terms with the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 and its devastating effects on aviation communities, where locally we face a £4 billion hit to our Hounslow economy with 40,000 jobs at risk.
“We have said before, we want to see a Heathrow which is better, not bigger so we hope that the Government and Heathrow Airport can find a solution that protects our environment and allows the airport to flourish.
“As a council we are committed to our climate emergency pledge, to delivering our recovery plan through a green economic recovery for aviation communities, and to working with Heathrow in its ambitions to improve while ensuring the best outcomes for local residents and businesses.”
Karen Jones, partner and head of planning and environmental law at Blandy & Blandy, said: “After the anticipated challenge was rejected in the Supreme Court, the authorisation process can now get under way in earnest with the Development Consent Order (DCO) for formal authorisation.
“The DCO will be submitted for decision by the Secretary of State. There are six stages to this, including examination, where written representations can be made by the public.
“The time frames allow six months for examination of the application and a further three months for decision. So although the project can now get under way, it will still be some time before a decision to authorise construction is made.”
See also: How Heathrow ruling affects those on the ground, with David Bainbridge and Julia Mountford from Savills.
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