Home / Insights / Blog / Heathrow Expansion Hearing Underway

Heathrow Expansion Hearing Underway

Heathrow Expansion Hearing Underway

A string of judicial reviews challenging the government’s approval of plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport are underway, with the applicants beginning their legal submissions against the project.

In their opening submissions, the applicants argued that the development would, in effect, add a new airport the size of Gatwick to the north of Heathrow, with “the adverse consequences for affected residents . . . bound to be severe.”

The £14bn project to expand the country’s busiest airport with a third runway is expected to enable Heathrow to provide 260,000 more flights a year, on top of its current capacity of 480,000. Citing issues of increased noise and pollution, campaigners also accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of having understated the impact that new flight paths would have and ignored the “high risk” that the expanded airport would breach air quality standards.

The judicial review follows in the footsteps of a 2010 challenge that successfully blocked Heathrow’s previous expansion attempt. The review is concerned with whether the government’s approval of the expansion was legitimately carried out according to the correct process, with a formal judgement expected to be delivered in April.

Judicial review to consider Government’s policy statement

Within the review, five challenges to the government’s decision to approve Heathrow’s expansion plans are being heard together. The applicants protesting the approval include a consortium of London local authorities, environmental charity Greenpeace, and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Critics say that the third runway will have unacceptable consequences for London air quality, noise pollution and transport access, as well as raising broader concerns of climate change.

However, as judges presiding over the review have emphasised, while applicants’ “sincere and deep concerns about issues such as air quality” may be valid, the review hearing itself will only consider the legality of the government’s Airports National Policy Statement and not the merits of a third runway.

MPs approved Heathrow’s expansion plan in June 2018 with a majority of 296, after the ambitious proposal was recommended for approval by the Airports Commission. Following Parliament’s approval, the government adopted a national policy statement outlining principles for the expansion and providing developers with a legislative basis to move forward with their plans. In addition to the statement, Heathrow still needs to secure a development consent order before it can begin work on the expansion.

Under current plans, construction could begin in 2021, with the new runway operational by 2026.

Government ‘mitigations’ criticised as inadequate

The Department for Transport has defended its decision to back the proposal, stating ahead of the review hearing’s commencement:

“As with any major infrastructure project, the government has been anticipating legal challenges and will robustly defend our position. We recognise the local impact of any expansion, which is why a world-class package of mitigations would need to be delivered.”

However, campaigners argue that the measures proposed to mitigate the third runway’s impact, with the impact itself deliberately underestimated.

In terms of managing additional traffic, critics say that proposed targets to change how people travel to Heathrow, from private cars to public transport, were “neither adequate nor achievable” and would not ease overcrowding on London Underground’s Piccadilly Line.

The addition of a third runway could significantly increase traffic to and from the airport, with the number of Heathrow flyers projected to increase by 60% to a total of 132 million per year. Campaigners also argue that costs associated with the project have been underestimated, meaning that costs will ultimately fall on taxpayers.

Equating this cycle of under-budgeting and public funding to similar budget overruns in the HS2 railway and Crossrail projects, former Richmond Park MP Susan Kramer said:

“This whole strategy of underestimating the costs to get a project over the line and leaving it to the taxpayer to pick up the burden has run its course.”

Heathrow Compulsory Purchase and Compensation Scheme

If you are a local resident or business affected by the Heathrow expansion you may be entitled to compensation.

Contact IBB’s property dispute resolution solicitors for expert advice on obtaining compensation associated with construction of the third runway at Heathrow and the consequences of the increased air traffic. Call us today on 01895 207988 or email propertydisputes@ibblaw.co.uk.