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Environmentalists win court case to block Heathrow expansion

UK's London Heathrow's plan for a third runway faces further delays after environmental activists won an appeal over an expansion that Europe's busiest airport says is needed to boost flights and allow it to compete with rival hubs

02 March 2020 - 19:00

UK's London Heathrow's plan for a third runway faces further delays after environmental activists won an appeal over an expansion that Europe's busiest airport says is needed to boost flights and allow it to compete with rival hubs.

Appeal court judges overturned a May decision and focused on the UK government's commitments to its international environmental agreements. Judge Keith Lindblom said that the then-transport secretary acted 'unlawfully when failing to consider climate change'.



The US$20 billion expansion at the London airport was delayed for decades because of concerns about extra aircraft noise, increased pollution, the demolition of homes and the impact on already crowded roads. The decision risks causing further uncertainty to a project that was proposed in 2002, and poses a quandary for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who previously opposed the plan.



'Today's landmark Heathrow judgment is a victory for Londoners and future generations,' London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement. 'We face a climate emergency and I'm delighted that the Court of Appeal has recognised that the government cannot ignore its climate change responsibilities.'



A Heathrow spokesperson said it will seek to appeal to the Supreme Court and added that any issues were 'eminently fixable'.



The government won't appeal the ruling, because any expansion would have to come from the private sector, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter.



'Airport expansion is core to boosting global connectivity,' Mr Shapps wrote. 'We also take seriously our commitment to the environment.'



The decision doesn't rule out an eventual expansion, the judges said, but instead forces the government to review its so-called Airports National Policy Statement following climate-change legislation. Britain is a participant in the Paris Agreement, where almost 200 nations agreed to work toward dramatic reductions in fossil fuel pollution by the middle of the century.



The airport's chief executive officer, John Holland-Kaye, stepped up his defence of the runway, saying a government decision to block the project would amount to 'financial suicide' and hamper UK efforts to boost trade after Brexit.



Mr Holland-Kaye said an expanded Heathrow, opposed by campaigners and some politicians because of its environmental impact, is 'essential for a global Britain'. Thwarting the plan will only benefit competing economies such as France, he said in an interview.



But environmental groups said the decision opens the way for challenges to construction and infrastructure projects that haven't had proper environmental impact reviews, reports London's Air Cargo News.


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