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Supreme Court Judgement means Expansion can go ahead

Heathrow’s expansion plans are now once more supported by Government policy after a unanimous Supreme Court decision this morning which legalised the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS).

Their verdict confirmed the Government had taken into account the Paris Climate Change Agreement as part of the policy, and that this would be considered as part of the robust planning processes in the UK.

Heathrow will now take the necessary time to consult with all of their stakeholders before taking decisions on what happens next.


  • December 2015 - the UK Government adopted the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which included an aim to achieve a net zero greenhouse gas emissions level during the latter half of the 21st century. This ensured future development applications to the Planning Inspectorate had to demonstrate compatibility with these net zero carbon targets, including Heathrow’s Expansion plans.

  • June 2018 - the Secretary of State for Transport made the ANPS part of the Planning Act 2008 making it a key policy for the planning and development of the third runway at Heathrow.

  • February 2020 – a judicial review hearing is held at the Court of Appeal, due to claims made against the Government’s decision to publish the ANPS. The judgment passed was that the Court did not believe that a national policy supporting expansion was compatible with the UK’s climate change commitments - suspending the ANPS.

  • Heathrow was then granted permission, by the Supreme Court, to appeal on this one issue which today, has gone in Heathrow’s favour.

Climate Change Commitments

The UK aviation industry was one of the first to commit to carbon net-zero by 2050 and develop a plan to do so. Decarbonising aviation, through increased use of sustainable aviation fuels and new technology, is also a key part of the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for green growth.

Heathrow is committed to delivering a carbon neutral future. Their plans for the third runway outlined how an expanded Heathrow will meet strict environmental targets, deliver tens of thousands of jobs and uphold our commitments to local communities.

The Future of Expansion

The UK has some of the most stringent planning processes in the world and today’s decision allows this planning process to work as it was intended, complete with tough environmental impact tests.

This Supreme Court decision comes at a time when the aviation industry is reeling from the effects of COVID-19. Their focus is on repairing the damage done before moving on to what their rebuild looks like. They are currently focusing their efforts on protecting passengers and colleagues, keeping Britain’s vital trading links open at this critical time and supporting the local communities, airlines, and Team Heathrow community as all face unprecedented challenges linked to the outbreak.

However, passenger demand will eventually return to levels seen pre-pandemic and when it does, the need for a third runway will surface again.

Expansion at Heathrow will bring much needed local jobs and investment to local communities. Areas around the Heathrow are among the hardest hit by the pandemic and they remain committed to supporting the local community during this time.

It is also a win for the Government, as aviation will play a key role in the UK’s economic recovery and a success on the global stage in a post-Brexit world.

Heathrow will now consult with their Board and investors, the Government, airline customers and regulators on their next steps.

Source: The Heathrow Communications Team

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