Decision for Heathrow’s third runway found to be unlawful


Re: R (Friends of the Earth) v Secretary of State for Transport and Ors [2020] EWCA Civ 214

The Court of Appeal have ruled on the proposed expansion of capacity at Heathrow Airport by the addition of a third runway under the policy set out in the “Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the south east of England” (“the ANPS”). The ANPS designated by the then Secretary of State for Transport in June 2018, is a national policy statement prepared Planning Act 2008, s5(1). It was subject to a number of legal challenges brought by claims for judicial review in accordance with the procedure that Parliament has provided for such challenges to be brought, in Planning Act, s13(1).

Held: The Court of Appeal has ruled that the expansion plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport were unlawful as the government did not take into account the UK’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement or the full climate change impacts of the proposal. The ruling is the first ever to be based on the Paris agreement to tackle climate change and the Prime Minister could use this ruling to abandon the project altogether. The judges said that a third runway could be possible in the future, if the plans changed to conform with UK climate commitments.

Raj Desai, Helen Mountfield QC and David Wolfe QC were involved in this case.