Britain’s top court gives go-ahead to Heathrow expansion


Britain’s top court gave the go-ahead to the expansion of Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, allowing the 14-billion-pound ($19-billion) plan to proceed after decades of legal battles and political wrangling.

The Supreme Court ruled in Heathrow’s favour, overturning a previous court decision which had blocked the plan on environmental grounds.

Heathrow, Britain’s biggest airport, is keen to proceed despite the plunge in air traffic during the pandemic which has seen it lose its crown as the busiest hub in Europe.

In February, a court had declared the expansion unlawful, with the judge in that case saying that a failure to take into account the UK government’s commitments on climate change was “legally fatal” to the plans.

But the Supreme Court judge told a virtual session on Wednesday that the government had taken climate change commitments into account when designing its airport policy.

“For these reasons, the Court unanimously concludes that the appeal should be allowed. The airports national policy statement is lawful,” judge Philip Sales said.

Since the ruling against the runway in February, the aviation sector has been hit by its worst-ever downturn, meaning Heathrow now has plenty of spare capacity, but the airport said another runway was still vital for the future.

“Demand for aviation will recover from COVID-19, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany,” a Heathrow spokesman said in a statement.

The airport is owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp among others.