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UK freight forwarders have urged the government to work with Heathrow Airport to get its planned expansion back on track, following yesterday’s Court of Appeal ruling that the project was unlawful.
Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) said: “The owners of Heathrow Airport have made it clear that while it will appeal to the Supreme Court on the one issue that was not dismissed – the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), which approved the project in its current form – it is ready to work with the government to fix the issue that the court has raised.
“The government has announced it will not appeal the judgement. On behalf of BIFA member companies, which are keen for the greater number of flights and accompanying airfreight capacity that would result from a new runway, BIFA urges the government to revise the ANPS and work with Heathrow to solve the legal issues.”
Heidi Copland, partner and head of planning at city law firm DMH Stallard, explained that the court had been careful to state it was not making a decision that a third runway would always be incompatible with the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement, but as things currently stood, the ANPS was of no legal effect.
“The ANPS, which is a policy document, is not itself determinative of permission being granted to begin development. It would, however, be one of a number of key considerations in any application for development consent.
“Having deemed the ANPS to have no legal effect the Court of Appeal has effectively ensured that consent will be delayed until either this judgement is reversed by the Supreme Court, or the government re-examines the proposed expansion to take the Paris Agreement into account.”
However, she added that, because this was the first decision of its kind to hold that the temperature goal set out in the Paris Agreement has binding effect on signees, there may be further challenges to national planning policies which have failed to take the Paris Agreement into consideration, and courts in other countries could follow the precedent set in the UK this week.
“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has indicated that the government will not appeal the decision, although a spokeswoman for Heathrow has said they are confident of victory at the Supreme Court. Whether the Supreme Court grants permission to appeal is a separate issue, however, and even if it does, the effect of today’s judgment is to give a significant boost to climate campaigners determined to hold government and industry to the obligations which were ratified in Paris,” she said.
And Mr Keen sounded a pessimistic note on the possibility of Heathrow’s expansion proceeding.
“In 2018, when the government gave approval for the third runway, I said it would be nice to think that decision is a further nail in the coffin of procrastination over the expansion of UK aviation capacity, and another important step towards bringing 50 years of indecision and delay on expanding Heathrow to a welcome close.
“However, I also expressed a sense of foreboding that the likelihood of further legal challenges to an extra runway still left me questioning whether the spades will ever hit the ground. That sense of foreboding remains,” he said.