A High Court challenge by campaigners against the government’s decision to approve plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport was rejected by judges yesterday.

Five councils, a group of residents, environmental charities and London mayor Sadiq Khan had all launched the legal challenge, raising questions about the process the government undertook before approving the plans.

Heathrow Hub, which had submitted its own proposal to extend one of the airport’s existing runways that it said would be cheaper and have less of an impact on the environment, claimed transport secretary Chris Grayling gave Heathrow the power to veto alternative plans.

Campaigners told the High Court that building a third runway at Heathrow would essentially create a “new airport” and would have a significant impact on local residents and the environment.

However, judges ruled that the £14 billion third runway plans are lawful. Lord Justice Hickinbottom said the campaigners’ arguments against the substance of the plan when the hearing “was only concerned with the legality, not the merits, of the Airports National Policy Statement” (NPS).

The decision means the government will not have to write a new NPS.

Grayling commented: “The expansion of Heathrow is vital and will provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities across the length and breadth of Britain, all at no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations. I now call on all public bodies not to waste any more taxpayers’ money or seek to further delay this vital project.”

In a statement, Heathrow airport said: “we are delighted with today’s ruling which is a further demonstration that the debate on Heathrow expansion has been had and won, not only in Parliament, but in the courts also. We are getting on with delivering the once-in-a-generation project that will connect Britain to global growth, providing thousands of new jobs and an economic boost for this country and its future generations.”

But Heathrow Hub says it will “consider our options going forward”. It commented: “The Heathrow Hub consortium continues to believe that its proposal is cheaper, quicker to build and quieter than Heathrow airport’s third runway. An extended runway is the most innovative option for airport expansion not just at Heathrow, but at other international airports as they seek to increase capacity.”

Heathrow Southern Railway, which is campaigning for greater rail connectivity to the airport from the South East, claims the rejection of the legal challenge makes establishing new routes to the hub “imperative.”

Chief executive Graham Cross said: “We will study the judgement in detail but our initial reaction is that clearance of this legal hurdle by the NPS means progress on a southern rail link to Heathrow is now even more imperative to address serious concerns on road congestion and air quality, which prompted the court action. It is essential that new rail services to and from Heathrow are available as soon as possible to ameliorate existing overload of the road network and poor air quality…”

Construction on the third runway could begin in 2021 with the aim of opening it for full operations by 2026.

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