Airport expansion plans deemed ‘legal’

The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust is disappointed at the Supreme Court’s ruling on 16th December, overturning a Court of Appeal decision earlier in the year that had blocked Heathrow’s expansion plans on environmental grounds.

The Trusts remain opposed to the current expansion plans for Heathrow, which include a third runway, as they are fundamentally at odds with the immediate need to tackle the nature and climate crisis.

The proposals would result in the destruction of natural greenspace, including the complete loss of Harmondsworth Moor, have a potentially devastating impact on waterbodies with international importance for birds, and concrete over four rivers, with a fifth being dramatically compromised by being diverted through a landfill site. 

In February 2020, the Court of Appeal found that the Secretary of State for Transport had failed to take into account the UK’s climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement when designating the Airports National Policy Statement (“ANPS”), which supported a third runway at Heathrow. The Supreme Court has now overturned that decision and found the ANPS to be legal.

The current expansion plans at Heathrow are fundamentally at odds with the immediate need to tackle the nature and climate crisis.
Kingfisher

The proposals would result in four rivers being concreted over. Kingfisher by Mya Bambrick

Whilst one major obstacle to a third runway may have been removed, the decision to expand Heathrow undoubtedly needs revisiting. The world is now a different place to what it was when the decision was made. The demand for air travel has plummeted as a result of coronavirus and technology has been embraced reducing the need for people to travel.

Air travel is the epitome of unsustainable travel, and with the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021, the UK Government should show global leadership by cancelling all airport expansion plans and instead invest in sustainable transport and restoring our natural environment. 

The critical importance of green spaces and being close to nature for our health and well-being have been recognised as never before during the current pandemic. In our view, these damaging expansion proposals belong to an unsustainable past, and are increasingly out of step with the changes we need to make for nature’s recovery, people’s well-being and the stability of our climate. And, for the same reason, so is the ANPS.

The Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Revolution has the ambition to develop zero-emission aircraft, but the reality is that the technology does not exist, and current air travel is hugely polluting. For that reason, we urge the Government to revisit its plans for Heathrow, live up to its ambition to build back better, and accelerate our path to net zero and scrap all airport expansion altogether.