Supreme Court to hear appeal on Heathrow Airport expansion and climate change commitments

The Supreme Court has granted the operator of Heathrow Airport and a hotels group permission to appeal over whether the government’s failure to take account of the UK’s climate change commitments, as represented in the Paris Agreement, when deciding whether or not to build a new runway rendered the decision unlawful.

The decision to grant permission to Heathrow Airport Ltd and Arora Holdings was taken by a panel comprising Lord Reed, Lord Hodge and Lord Sales. No date has yet been set for the hearing.

The Court of Appeal found in favour of councils and environmental groups on the issue in February this year.

Adopted on 12 December 2015, the Paris Agreement enshrines an aspiration to achieve a net zero greenhouse gas emissions level during the latter half of the 21st century. The UK ratified the Paris Agreement on 17 November 2016.

The Secretary of State for Transport, on 25 October 2016, announced the Government wished to build a new runway at Heathrow.

An Airports National Policy Statement (“ANPS”), which recommended the north-west runway, was laid before Parliament and approved by the House of Commons in 2018.

On 26 June 2018 the Secretary of State adopted the ANPS under s 5(1) Planning Act 2008. However, the ANPS did not take account of the Paris Agreement.

The panel of Supreme Court justices has, however, refused to grant permission to councils including Hillingdon on the issue of whether the Secretary of State breached planning law in adopting a scheme for a third runway at Heathrow as opposed to a second runway at Gatwick Airport.

The panel also refused an application by Heathrow Hub and another for permission to appeal on the issue as to whether the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to designate the ANPS was unlawful by virtue of an unlawful breach of the appellant’s legitimate expectations.

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