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Aerial view of Heathrow Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Heathrow Airport’s Third Runway Expansion Blocked by Court

A Court in the United Kingdom has ruled plans for a third runway at London Heathrow to be illegal based on environmental grounds.

At a time where the conversation about climate change has grown over the past year, questions are now being asked if Heathrow will ever expand its’ airport capacity.

The Court of Appeal said the current plan to expand one of the world’s busiest airports had not properly taken into account the environmental impacts, as well as, not falling in line with the government’s commitments to tackle climate change.

In response to the ruling, the government has confirmed they will not appeal the court ruling but did say they are in favor of airport expansion.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said: “Our manifesto makes clear any Heathrow expansion will be industry-led. Airport expansion is core to boosting global connectivity and leveling up across the UK. We also take seriously our commitment to the environment.”

The decision made by the courts will bring relief to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As London Mayor, Mr. Johnson famously claimed he would “lie down in front of the bulldozers” during protests against Heathrow Expansion back in 2015.

The Prime Minister had favored the idea of a new airport being built in the Thames Eastery. Later dubbed Boris Island, the idea, as well as other expansion offers by nearby airports, was unsuccessful in swaying the government Airport Commission that was set up by the David Cameron Government in 2012 to look where expansion would be best located.

The final report, chaired by Sir Howard Davis, was published in July 2015 and had unanimously concluded that the expansion of Heathrow Airport with a new northwest runway had the strongest case and offered the greatest strategic and economic benefits. On top of the current 100,000 workers, an expanded Heathrow would provide more than 40 new destinations, with the capacity of over 740,000 flights per year and create over 70,000 new jobs.

Heathrow Airport’s new runway (Graphic: Heathrow Airport)

Following the report, the House of Commons voted 415-119 in favor of a third runway, allowing the government to move forward with expansion.

Following the court ruling, it brings yet more delay to the creation of any additional capacity to the United Kingdom. For decades the idea to expand Heathrow has been a political ‘hot potato.’ While business leaders welcome the idea of expansion, environmentalists and local residents have fiercely opposed any move to expand, and so far have won the battle through the courts.

Nearby London airports such as Gatwick and Stansted will most likely revive their individual cases to bring extra capacity at their own airports.


  • Jack is a keen aviation enthusiast from the United Kingdom. He has been flying since the age of 13 and today operates in the airline industry

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