Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Supreme Court overturns Heathrow Airport ruling

17 December 2020
An artist’s impression of how Heathrow would look with a third runway

The Supreme Court has overturned a judgement made in February that the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport was illegal.

The decision as part of a judicial review leaves Heathrow free to seek a development consent order for the £14bn project.

The February ruling by the Court of Appeal found that the government’s approval of the runway was illegal because ministers had failed to take the UK’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate accord into account, which requires keeping the global temperature rise as close to 1.5C as possible.

The Supreme Court ruling reverses that decision. However, with passenger numbers down considerably at the airport as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Heathrow may delay the project, although it insisted demand for the runway would still exist over the longer term.

In a statement, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “This is the right result for the country, which will allow Global Britain to become a reality. Only by expanding the UK’s hub airport can we connect all of Britain to all of the growing markets of the world, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in every nation and region of our country. 

“Demand for aviation will recover from covid, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany. Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin. The government has made decarbonising aviation a central part of its green growth agenda, through wider use of sustainable aviation fuel as well as new technology. As passenger numbers recover, our immediate focus will be to continue to ensure their safety and to maintain our service levels while we consult with investors, government, airline customers and regulators on our next steps.”


we are not likely to see anything like a viable hybrid or hydrogen aeroplane until somewhere between 2030 – 40.

In the mean time Heathrow will be producing 9 – 9.5 MtCO2 every year for the next 10 – 20 years, a possible 190 MtCO2. What is the point of having the best commercial air service if we haven’t a planet to live on?

Rory Gannon, 18 December 2020