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Supreme Court unanimously allows Heathrow appeal


The Supreme Court has today unanimously allowed Heathrow Airport Ltd (Heathrow)’s appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision of February this year in R (Friends of the Earth Ltd and others) v Heathrow Airport Ltd.

The appeal concerned the lawfulness of a decision taken on 26 June 2018 by the Secretary of State for Transport designating the Airports National Policy Statement ("ANPS") under section 5(1) of the Planning Act 2008. The ANPS supports the development of a third runway at Heathrow Airport to deliver additional hub airport capacity in the South East of England.

On 12 December 2015 the UK government adopted the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which enshrines an aspiration to achieve a net zero greenhouse gas emissions level during the latter half of the 21st century. The UK ratified the Paris Agreement on 17 November 2016.

The respondents, Friends of the Earth Ltd and Plan B Earth, challenged the Secretary of State’s decision, primarily on the basis of an alleged failure to take sufficient account of the Paris Agreement. The High Court dismissed their application for judicial review, but the Court of Appeal allowed their appeal and found the ANPS to have been unlawfully designated. 

The Secretary of State did not seek to appeal that decision, but Heathrow (who appeared as an interested party before the High Court and Court of Appeal) was granted permission to appeal on five grounds. The Supreme Court allowed Heathrow’s appeal on the first four of these grounds, which meant that it was not necessary for the Court to consider the final ground. The consequence is that the Supreme Court has concluded that the Secretary of State acted lawfully in designating the ANPS. It has, in consequence, set aside the Court of Appeal’s order suspending the operation of the ANPS.

The judgment is here.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich KBE QC and Malcolm Birdling appeared for Heathrow, instructed by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.