Lawyers acting for a consortium of local authorities have issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court over the proposed development of a third runway at Heathrow.
The legal challenge against the Secretary of State for Transport is on the basis that the government has unlawfully designated the Airports National Policy Statement [NPS] under the Planning Act 2008.
The proceedings challenging the expansion of Heathrow airport have been brought by the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Greenpeace, climate charity Plan B and the Mayor of London.
The grounds of challenge are on the potential impact of the development on air quality as well as claims that ‘inadequate’ environmental assessment has been carried out on the proposals.
The claimants also argue that the third runway could jeopardise progress towards climate change objectives, will breach the habitats directive and has been the subject of a ‘flawed’ consultation process.
Ministers have said that plans will not proceed unless the operator of the airport can demonstrate that the third runway can be delivered without creating additional levels of air pollution in the capital, and risking future non-compliance with air quality targets.
The planned development of a third runway would see the total number of flights that the airport is able to cope with – both incoming and departing – increase from around 473,000 currently to closer to 740,000. The number of passengers using the airport would nearly double to around 130 million per year it is claimed.
But, the councils argue that the government’s planning statement, in which it endorsed the third runway, ‘fails to recognise the scale of the challenge to accommodate additional trips without unacceptable effects on the transport network and unacceptable effects from traffic pollution’.
Councillor Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon council, said: “Once again we have a government that is trying to avoid applying both the correct legal process and common sense to the question of airport expansion.
“The abject failure to address the far reaching consequences for both the environment and the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of residents across London is simply not acceptable.
“This council is not prepared to stand back and allow this to happen without submitting the many flaws in this project to the rigorous scrutiny of the High Court and beyond, if necessary.
“I have confidence in the judicial process and am hopeful, that as with the previous judicial review challenge which was heard back in 2010, that the court will expose the many failings of this ill-thought-through project.”
Commenting on the development, a Heathrow spokesperson said that judicial review proceedings ‘are completely normal’ for projects of this size.
“We will support the Department for Transport in its response,” the spokesperson said. “We are confident in the process that has taken place so far, meaning that legal challenges are unlikely to be successful: the Airports National Policy Statement is supported by extensive evidence prepared by both the Department for Transport and the Airports Commission and has been subject to multiple rounds of public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny.
“Judicial reviews are a completely normal process in infrastructure projects of this size and our work on our planning application continues, to ensure the timeline for the delivery of an expanded Heathrow is not affected.”