United Kingdom

Downing Street refuses to say if it will back Heathrow expansion if protesters win court challenge

Downing Street refused to say yesterday whether it would back Heathrow’s bid to build a third runway if protesters win a key court case today.

Boris Johnson is personally against the scheme and when he was London mayor he promised to ‘lie down... in front of those bulldozers’ to stop the runway being built. 

Today the Court of Appeal will give its ruling on a legal challenge to the Government’s support for Heathrow expansion.

But Downing Street refused to say whether the Government would support an appeal if the protesters win their case.

Today the Court of Appeal will give its ruling on a legal challenge to the Government’s support for Heathrow expansion (file image)

The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at Heathrow, but it is a private sector project.

'In order to proceed Heathrow must demonstrate it can meet its air quality and noise obligations [and] that the project can be financed and built.’

Earlier Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, warned that failing to expand the west London airport would ‘give control to the French’. 

If the runway is finally opened, it will be the first full-length runway built in the London area for 70 years.

Last May, a High Court judge said he did not accept the arguments made by environmentalists and did not believe the government's transport minister had acted unlawfully when he approved the expansion of Europe's busiest airport.

Environmental groups, local authorities and the Mayor of London are appealing against that decision, arguing expansion is incompatible with Britain's climate change and environmental commitments.

Demonstrators are seen staging a protest opposing the government's plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on January 15

Boris Johnson (pictured) is personally against the scheme and when he was London mayor he promised to ‘lie down... in front of those bulldozers’ to stop the runway being built

In addition, development consortium Heathrow Hub is appealing on the grounds that the government should instead consider its proposals for an extended runway rather than a new one. 

In 2018, lawmakers voted 415 to 119 in favour of building the new runway. 

Last December, the airport said the expansion plan would be delayed by more than a year after Britain's aviation regulator said it could not increase its spending on early construction costs to keep it on track. The third runway is now due for completion between early 2028 and late 2029.

The airport is jointly owned by Spain's Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority, China Investment Corporation and other investment companies.