Campaigners lose bid to challenge Heathrow third runway plans at High Court
An attempt by campaigners to bring a High Court challenge against a third runway at Heathrow Airport has failed.
A coalition of local councils, including Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead, together with Greenpeace UK and a Hillingdon resident, claims that the Government's October 2016 decision to back plans for the runway is unlawful.
It alleges there was a failure to consult before resiling from unequivocal promises that it would never be built and that the Government has failed to recognise the project's unlawful air quality impacts.
But lawyers for the Transport Secretary argued that the judicial review could not proceed - saying it should not be heard until after the consultation on the National Policy Statement (NPS) on aviation is published in 2017/18.
On Monday in London, Mr Justice Cranston struck out the case on the basis that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.
James Maurici QC told the judge that there was a "preliminary and insuperable obstacle" to the claim proceeding.
The court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter because of the provision in the Planning Act 2008 which said that proceedings may only be brought in a six-week period that followed once the NPS was adopted, or if later, published.
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"That is not expected to happen until late 2017 at the earliest. Before that time this claim is precluded. This is a complete answer to the claim at this time."
The coalition said that the 2008 Act has no such time limitations and that, in any event, the decision was made before the Planning Act process started.
The judge said that his decision followed from the language of the relevant section of the Act, the legislative purpose and the overall statutory context and history.
"Once the Secretary of State adopts and publishes an NPS the court will have jurisdiction to entertain the challenges the claimants advance. For the present this claim must be struck out."
Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon Council, said: "People right across London have repeatedly voiced their opposition to any expansion at Heathrow, and our job has always been, and continues to be, to represent our residents' views and to challenge this terrible decision to allow a third runway.
"Today's ruling is not the end of Heathrow's problems, it is just the first step in what will be a losing battle for them and the Government, neither of which can get around the problem of unlawful air quality impacts, let alone all of the other issues it faces.
"The blatant waste of public money by the Government at this time is lamentable."
Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "The Government has taken a colossal gamble by delaying this legal action for at least a year.
"The country is now going to waste more time developing a scheme that will never pass a simple legal test on air quality.
"Nothing is going to change between now and 2018 to make this scheme any less polluting so they should face this challenge now or abandon the third runway."
Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said: "The Government has delayed the inevitable.
"The expansion of Heathrow would be the worst environmental decision of any government in modern times.
"And the process in which ministers have made their decision is now proven to be inadequate, incompetent and goes back on a six-year commitment never to expand the airport.
"We will be a thorn in the Government's side until sense prevails."
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: "Today's ruling was about the timing of our legal challenge, not its merit.
"It doesn't change the fact that ministers have no solution to the huge air and noise pollution problems caused by a third runway.
"By forging ahead with a flawed consultation, ministers are just delaying an inevitable legal challenge, wasting more time, energy and public money in the process.
"Expanding Heathrow will heap more misery on thousands of Londoners already breathing illegal levels of air pollution and make it impossible for the Government to comply with air quality laws.
"The Government should ditch this project as they have promised to do many times in the past."