The High Court in London has ordered the government to consult the public once again on the proposed construction of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.
A coalition of local councils, residents and environmental groups sought a judicial review against the proposals, arguing the government’s approval of the scheme was at odds with environmental targets.
Campaigners also argued the first public consultation was “conspicuously unfair”.
Despite a “robust defence” from the Department of Transport, Lord Justice Carnwath this morning ruled the 2003 Air Transport White Paper – the foundation of expansion plans across the country - is obsolete because it is inconsistent with the Climate Change Act 2008.
The judge also expressed real concern over the “hardship caused to the local community by uncertainty” over the third runway.
The coalition which brought the successful legal challenge is now calling on the government to end the uncertainty and scrap the runway plans once and for all.
Supporters of the proposed development argue a third runway at Heathrow is essential for the economic prosperity of south-east England, while also creating local employment and allowing the airport to remain and international leader.
However, opponents – including Greenpeace, local councils and the Campaign to Protect Rural England – argue it will be environmentally damaging, destroy local properties and increase noise pollution at what is already one of the most congested flight-paths in the world.
Hillingdon Council leader Ray Puddifoot has previously argued the government’s decision was “fundamentally flawed”.
Policy in Tatters
In a joint statement, the coalition argued the government’s Heathrow policy is now “in tatters”, with the judge dismissing the plans as “untenable in law and common sense”.
Speaking on behalf of the local councils, Cllr Ray Puddifoot said: “This is a spectacular victory for our residents. The government had been trying to close down debate on the true economic impact of a third runway by presenting it as a done deal.
“Today’s ruling has blown that position apart.
“The Government just did not want to have to take on board the real consequences of new climate change laws. The judge made it clear the figures just did not add up.”
Six local authorities in west London - Hammersmith & Fulham, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Richmond-upon-Thames, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead - are claimants to the challenge, alongside the local residents group NoTRAG and the national campaigning group against airport expansion HACAN.
WWF-UK, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Greenpeace are also claimants.
Transport for London is an independent party supporting the claim.
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “This ruling leaves the government’s Heathrow decision in tatters.
“Ministers will now have to go back to the drawing board and conduct a broad consultation on key issues where their case is extremely weak.
“The third runway was already on life support, but with this ruling it’s hard to even find a pulse.
“This shows that David Cameron and Nick Clegg backed the right horse when they pledged to scrap the third runway, and it makes any Conservative U-turn after the election all but politically impossible.”
Both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap the plan, should they win power at the expected May 6th general election.