Campaigners today lost a suite of challenges in the High Court against the UK government’s £14bn plan for expanding London’s Heathrow airport with a third runway.
The challenges had been brought by five local councils, residents, environmental charities including Greenpeace, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan after MPs backed the plans in June last year.
They argued the expansion would effectively create a "new airport" and would have "severe" impact on Londoners, but judges rejected the arguments, ruling the plans were lawful.
They can appeal.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling applauded the decision.
"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," he said, reports the BBC.Â Â
"I now call on all public bodies not to waste any more taxpayers’ money or seek to further delay this vital project."
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: "This verdict will not reduce the impact on local communities from increased noise and air pollution, nor will it resolve Heathrow Ltd’s financial difficulties or the economic weakness in their expansion plans."
Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, an organisation that supports legal action against climate change, issued a joint statement with the Extinction Rebellion movement.
"Following the recent Extinction Rebellion protests there is widespread recognition that we are in a state of climate and ecological emergency. The Mayor of London, the Welsh Government and more than 90 Councils have all declared a state of emergency.
"According to polling published yesterday two thirds of the public now recognise we are in a state of emergency and 76% would cast their votes differently to protect the planet. Acting on that emergency demands an urgent and radical reduction of emissions, which is clearly inconsistent with plans to expand aviation."
Campaigners argued that the government’s National Policy Statement (NPS), which made the case for the project, failed to account for the full impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.Â
In their ruling justices acknowledged the claims involved "underlying issues upon which the parties – and indeed many members of the public – hold strong and sincere views", but maintained the hearing concerned only "the legality, and not the merits, of the Airports National Policy Statement".
The government hopes construction could begin in 2021, with the third runway operational by 2026.
Image: Heathrow, Terminal 5 (Heathrow Airports Ltd)