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Press releases
May 07, 2020

Heathrow should admit its 3rd Runway fiasco is finished; incremental expansion via an extended runway is the only solution

  • Heathrow Airport wins the right to argue for its 3rd Runway in the Supreme Court, despite also telling Parliament it may not be required for 10-15 years.
  • Heathrow Hub argues that further legal challenges by Heathrow over its 3rd Runway are a waste of time and money, it will not happen.
  • Incremental and phased expansion at Heathrow via an extended Northern Runway is the only viable solution on economic and environmental grounds.
  • Heathrow Hub repeats its call to the Government to hold a Section 6 Review and to clarify its policy on airport expansion in order to avoid even further uncertainty and blight for affected communities.

Following the decision by the Supreme Court today, that Heathrow Airport Ltd (“HAL”) has been granted permission to pursue its case to overturn the ruling by the Court of Appeal that the Airports National Policy Statement was unlawful, Heathrow Hub argues that the continuation of this legal process is pointless on two grounds.

First, the Government does not support the construction of the 3rd runway. It has refused to defend the 3rd Runway in the Supreme Court and said no public money will be spent on it. Second, HAL itself has admitted to the Transport Select Committee that the 3rd Runway may not be needed for 10-15 years as the industry recovers from the effects of COVID-19. This fatally undermines the Airports Commission’s evidence, which was only able to recommend HAL’s hugely expensive scheme on the assumption it would be completed by 2026 and that the whole of the new capacity - 260,000 additional flights per year - would be fully taken up within two years of opening.

Heathrow Hub has consistently maintained that incremental expansion is the only solution to expanding capacity at Heathrow and to solving the 3rd Runway fiasco. Heathrow Hub’s own proposal, an Extended Northern Runway (“ENR”) is cheaper, greener, quicker and simpler, quieter and safe. It does not rely on additional capacity being brought on immediately and in the first instance can make Heathrow more efficient. It allows for emissions and noise standards to be met, with incremental increases in capacity subsequently where this is possible within legal limits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the importance of Heathrow to the airlines as they maintain their slots but withdraw from other airports, notably Gatwick. Heathrow is where the airlines make their money and is a strategic international hub.

Heathrow Hub therefore calls on the Government once again to instigate a Section 6 Review to clarify its airports policy not just for Heathrow, but for the sector as a whole. It is unacceptable to condemn local communities to even more years of uncertainty and blight for a scheme which will never happen.

Jock Lowe of Heathrow Hub said: “It is time for Heathrow to be honest with the public. Pursuing the legal fight over the unnecessarily complicated and expensive 3rd Runway, that fails to meet environmental standards and has no government support, is a waste of time and money.

“That said, the reported withdrawal of both British Airways and Virgin from Gatwick to instead focus on Heathrow, shows that is where the demand is. Some sort of expansion is likely to be required. Throughout this entire process we have argued for incremental expansion via our own extended northern runway proposal, deemed viable by the Airports Commission. It is far cheaper and simpler to construct and therefore quicker; it allows for environmental targets to be met and for incremental increases in capacity; it offers greater respite for communities under the flightpaths and brings no new communities into the flightpath, it destroys far fewer houses and much less infrastructure. It is the cheaper, greener, quicker and simpler, quieter and safe proposal.

“The Government also needs to clarify its policy on airport expansion by holding a S.6 review of the Airports National Policy Statement. Pretending it is just a private sector matter is not credible.”