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Heathrow third runway: Court of Appeal to hand down ruling on Thursday 27th

news release
  • Hearing to start by 10:30 (timings will be confirmed here morning of 26th). Watch a live stream of the hearing here
  • Friends of the Earth spokespeople available for interview ahead of, and following, the ruling (on location and in studio)

This Thursday (27th) the Court of Appeal will hand down it’s ruling in Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge against Heathrow Airport’s third runway, in the most important environmental law case in this country for over a generation.

Friends of the Earth has led the climate case against the airport’s expansion. Plan B, who adopted some of Friends of the Earth’s grounds also submitted separate climate arguments. Different challenges have also been brought by other parties on grounds including air quality.

Friends of the Earth’s case is that:

  • The Secretary of State for Transport (at the time Chris Grayling) failed to consider important climate factors for the decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, already one of the biggest single sources of carbon emissions in the UK.
  • Specifically, the Secretary of State should have taken into account the Paris Agreement, the non-CO2 warming impacts of Heathrow expansion, and the climate impacts of the project beyond 2050.
  • He also breached his duty to undertake a lawful strategic environmental assessment in accordance with the requirements of the SEA Directive and the SEA Regulations.
  • As such, the decision should be ruled unlawful.

Previous polling* for Friends of the Earth found 64% of people, after being told the potential benefits and negatives, are concerned about the climate impact of building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The same survey found that only 1 in 4 people support the plans for a third runway.


For more information contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 / 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text this number) or by emailing

Notes to editors:

  1. Environmental group Friends of the Earth was represented by barristers David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers, Peter Lockley of 11 Kings Bench Walk Chambers, Andrew Parkinson of Landmark Chambers, and law firm Leigh Day.
  2. In October 2019 The Court of Appeal heard Friends of the Earth’s appeal against the High Court’s decision that the government had not breached its sustainable development duties by allowing the expansion of Heathrow.
  3. The High Court ruled on 1 May 2019 that the government’s decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport was lawful. This followed legal challenges brought by a number of environmental NGOs, pressure groups and local councils which were heard collectively by the court in March 2019.
  4. Friends of the Earth argued that the decision breached the Secretary of State for Transport’s sustainable development duty in failing to have regard to the desirability of mitigating climate change for future generations. This was specifically due to: not considering the UN’s Paris Agreement, the lack of any climate impacts of the project beyond 2050 when the lifetime of the project is expected to run until 2085, and the failure to factor in any impact from the non-CO2 contribution of aviation to climate breakdown, in breach of the precautionary principle.
  5. *Survey data from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,017 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th – 6th October 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
    1. The survey asked people about their level of concern, and whether they support or oppose the expansion, after respondents were shown the following text: “There are currently plans for a third runway to be built at Heathrow Airport. The additional runway would put 700 more planes into the sky each day – 50% more than the airport currently does. It has been suggested that this will bring certain benefits by creating new jobs and domestic flight routes, but it will also contribute to climate change and negatively impact those living around Heathrow Airport.”
  6. Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.

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