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Case update 21 April 2021

How to stop Heathrow

In just months, a Government policy that pre-dates the Net Zero commitments in the Climate Change Act could form the basis for a decision to expand Manston Airport in Kent. Government has refused to say whether a decision on Heathrow expansion will be made under the old policy but, with an application for a development consent order on Manston Airport imminent, we think we can force its hand – on Manston and on Heathrow.

That policy – the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) – is inconsistent with Government’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis. And whilst you might not have heard of Manston Airport, we think the application for a development consent order on Manston gives a chance to force the Government’s hand on a third runway at Heathrow. 

For months now, we have been urging Government to live up to its promises to tackle the climate crisis by suspending and reviewing the policy. But Government has dragged its feet, claiming that addressing the Airports National Policy isn’t urgent. 

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But that’s not good enough. The development of airport infrastructure is continuing, with Southampton Airport the latest example. And so Good Law Project, along with environmentalists Dale Vince and George Monbiot, have taken the first formal step in legal proceedings to force Government to suspend and review the Airports policy. Our Pre-Action Protocol letter can be found here.

Bringing this challenge now, when the Secretary of State is just months away from making a decision on Manston Airport, is the best chance we have of stopping the expansion of Heathrow once and for all. And the best chance to press pause on other environmentally destructive airport projects. 

But there’s a further twist in the tale – in the last 48 hours, we have seen reports that the Government is set to make a statutory commitment to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035. The sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate – for the first time – the UK’s share of international aviation emissions in its calculations. While we have not seen the detail just yet, they appear to be positive commitments as we grapple with the defining crisis of our time. What the proposals also do is make the case for reviewing and suspending the ANPS irresistible – the Government can’t reasonably make these commitments without also reviewing and revising a policy that flies in the face of them. We are writing to the Government’s legal team to make sure that their response to our pre-action letter takes these new promises into account. We think there is only one acceptable course of action now.

Government talks a good game when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. But the time for empty promises is over. We are demanding action.  If you’re in a position to donate to the legal challenge, you can do so here: