Critics Say Ruling A Blow To Heathrow Plan

March 26, 2010

Bookmark and Share

Environmentalists opposed to a third runway at London's Heathrow airport claimed victory on Friday after a British judge ruled the government must review the project's climate change and economic impact.

The Labour government gave the go-ahead in January last year for a third runway and another terminal at Europe's busiest airport as part of a GBP£9 billion pound (USD$13.4 billion) expansion.

But the project has run into fierce opposition and a legal challenge from local residents and environmentalists concerned about noise and increased carbon emissions.

The opposition Conservatives, ahead in the polls before a national election widely expected on May 6, oppose plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

High Court judge Robert Carnwath said the government's argument that the policy of support for the third runway had been set in 2003, subject to the fulfilment of three environmental conditions, was "untenable."

The government must prepare a national policy statement, required to establish the case for major infrastructure projects, before the expansion can go ahead.

Carnwath said the preparation of the statement "will necessarily involve a review of all the relevant policy issues including the impact of climate change policy."

He said the national policy statement would also have to consider the economic impact of a third runway as increases in carbon costs would have a "significant effect on the economic picture."

"It makes no sense to treat the economic case as settled in 2003," he said.

Opponents of the plan, including local councils and environmentalists, said the ruling meant that the government would have to "go back to square one and reconsider the entire case for the runway" if it wanted to pursue its plans for Heathrow expansion.