Heathrow’s wings clipped?


The Court of Appeal has declared the Airports National Policy Statement which favoured a third runway at Heathrow unlawful.  In his ruling, Lord Justice Lindblom said that in its current form the government’s policy was unlawful as it failed to take into account climate change commitments made by the government when it signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The government when it published the ANPS (Airports National Policy Statement) had not taken into account its own firm policy commitments on climate change under the Paris agreement. That, in our view, is legally fatal to the ANPS in its present form,” said Lord Justice Lindblom.

We have not decided and could not decide that there will be no third runway at Heathrow.

The court’s ruling means ministers must now look at the Airport National Policy Statement afresh and publicly declare how it will fit in with reducing carbon emissions.  Given that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously stated his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow and therefore, it is not clear whether any future Airport National Policy Statement will include a recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow.

The case is likely to be the first in a series of challenges based on international environmental commitments. Given the focus on climate change in press, such challenges are likely to be more common in the future.

The challenge was one of a series of challenges on a range of issues in respect of the proposed third runway including challenges based on the Strategic Environmental Assessment, noise, and air quality.  All other challenges were dismissed.


While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.