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Friends of the Earth briefing: Heathrow expansion – illegal

“The legal issues are of the highest importance. The infrastructure project under consideration is one of the largest. Both the development itself and its effects will last well into the second half of this century. The issue of climate change is a matter of profound national and international importance of great concern to the public – and, indeed, to the Government of the United Kingdom and many other national governments, as is demonstrated by their commitment to the Paris Agreement.” (Court of Appeal judgment, paragraph 276)


Friends of the Earth have stopped Heathrow Airport expanding to protect our climate. As one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the UK, a new runway at Heathrow would have been extremely dangerous for people and the planet. This briefing explains the successful outcome of the judicial review appeal, and another appeal on climate grounds by Plan B Earth. In ‘R (oao Friends of the Earth) v Department for Transport & Others’, Friends of the Earth appealed the High Court’s dismissal of its challenge to the legality of the “Airports National Policy Statement”. The “Airports National Policy Statement” (ANPS) is the policy framework created under the Planning Act 2008 by the Secretary of State for Transport. It allows expansion at Heathrow airport and guides new airport expansion in the south east of England.

Friends of the Earth argued the Secretary of State’s failure to consider:

• the Paris Agreement on climate change,

• the non-CO2warming impacts of aviation, and

• the climate impacts of the operation of the airport long into the future beyond 2050 made the decision/ANPS unlawful on each count, because they each breached s10 of the Planning Act, and also the SEA Directive (regarding Paris only).

Plan B Earth ran an additional point that the failure to consider the Paris Agreement breached s5(8) of the Planning Act 2008, because it was already government policy. The Court of Appeal agreed with both claimants on all arguments advanced, and “… will not allow unlawful action by a public body to stand” (Judgment, para. 281).

Read the full Heathrow briefing (pdf)

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