Two groups opposed to plans to build a third runway at Heathrow are at the High Court today as part of an appeal hearing.

A cross-party group of politicians is joining the No Third Runway Coalition, which is made up of local authorities, the mayor of London, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth. Also in court today is Heathrow Hub, which submitted an independent proposal to extend and existing runway to grow capacity at the airport.

Both challenges are being made against the government’s decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement on two grounds, according to No Third Runway – “the absence of plans to address commitments under the Habitats Directive and the incompatibility of the expansion plans with the UK’s climate change commitments”.

The previous challenge was dismissed by the High Court in May 2019, but both groups were subsequently granted appeals.

The Committee on Climate Change recently advised the government that aviation will become the biggest source of carbon in the UK by 2050 and that expanding Heathrow leaves little room for growth at other airports in the country. It also claimed it is unlikely that zero-carbon aviation can be achieved by the net-zero target of 2050.

Paul McGuiness, chair of the No Third Runway Coalition, commented: “If the unavoidable increases in noise pollution and poorer air quality were not enough, the recent inclusion of a net zero carbon target in the Climate Change Act has tightened the noose around Heathrow expansion even further.

“The Committee on Climate Change has highlighted that demand for aviation must be limited and that a third runway at Heathrow would inevitably mean restrictions on capacity at other airports across the UK. It’s now vital for government to pause plans for Heathrow expansion, to reassess airport capacity strategy for the whole country.”

Meanwhile, Heathrow Hub will again state its case that its proposal is a cheaper, will have less impact on the environment and will be easier to build. It claims its plan “is the common-sense option” and can get prime minister Boris Johnson – who opposed the third runway prior to the Commons’ vote – “out of the hole dug for him by the Department for Transport”.

The group is returning to court after its lawyers at DAC Beachcroft wrote to transport secretary Grant Shapps to demand a review of Heathrow airport’s third runway plan under Section 6 of the Planning Act, which gives government the power to revisit a National Policy Statement if there has been a “significant change in circumstances”.

Heathrow Hub says the government’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 and the growing concern that the airport’s plan may cost more than Heathrow originally projected are reasons for such a review.

Shapps himself has hinted that he wants to take a closer look at Heathrow airport’s scheme to find out “whether figures stack up”. He raised concerns also voiced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and ABTA that the final cost of building the third runway could be passed on to passengers in the form of airport fees, though Heathrow has insisted this will not be the case.

Director Jock Lowe said: “Instead of fighting Heathrow airport’s corner in the courts, prime minister Boris Johnson and secretary of state Grant Shapps should admit that the government bungled the decision-making process for expansion at the airport.”

Last week, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye called on the aviation industry to do more to tackle its impact on the environment after British Airways owner International Airlines Group committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

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