Mayor of London supports forthcoming legal challenge
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has signalled his support for a legal challenge of the Government's announcement that it wants to see a third runway at Heathrow.
On 16th November, the Mayor said that he has directed Transport for London to provide advice and assistance to affected borough councils, including Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead, as they prepare for a joint legal challenge with Greenpeace.
It is likely that TfL will be named in this action as an interested party and the Mayor may then decide to join the legal challenge.
At Mayor’s Question Time, Sadiq reiterated his opposition to Heathrow expansion and highlighted the significant environmental impact that a third runway would have on Londoners’ lives.
Heathrow already exposes more people to aircraft noise than Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. Expanding the airport would mean that 200,000 more Londoners would suffer unacceptable levels of noise every day. These figures include 43,500 children who attend 124 London schools. Research shows that noise exposure reduces reading levels and memory recall in children.
While noise contributes to stress and sleep disturbance, air pollution shortens the lives of 10,000 Londoners each year.
Sadiq Khan said: “I promised I wouldn’t just stand-by and see hundreds of thousands suffer from the additional noise and air pollution that a third runway would cause. These decisions show that I’m ready to help ensure that this misery isn’t inflicted on Londoners.
“That’s why I’ve directed TfL to provide their expert advice and assistance to support Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead Councils, and Greenpeace as they prepare for a joint legal challenge, and why I will be ready for us to play an active role in the action if required.”
Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia said: “The Mayor’s commitment is very good news and will significantly strengthen our legal arguments. Transport for London’s resources and technical expertise will be hugely helpful to developing our case and exposing the deeply flawed logic supporting Heathrow expansion.”
Leader of Richmond Council, Lord True, said: “This is excellent news and I am grateful to Mayor Khan and his recognition that the fight against Heathrow is vital for all London and must be conducted across party lines. TfL are the best informed organisation on London transport links and know that the transport connections required for a third runway are simply undeliverable at the cost suggested by Heathrow PR men or without further air quality and noise pollution for Londoners.”
Greenpeace UK's executive director John Sauven: "A third runway at Heathrow will inevitably heap more misery on hundreds of thousands of Londoners already suffering from illegal levels of air pollution. It will also drive the UK's climate-warming emissions through the roof. Ministers are already on the run from a court ruling that has exposed their current air pollution plan as a sham. It's time for ministers to stop defending Heathrow’s right to pollute and blight our capital city and start championing people's right to breathe clean air and live in a healthy environment."
Residents under threat from a third runway will be given a boost by the Mayor of London's statement of support. They know that Heathrow's promises on air quality will not be kept. It currently fails to bring pollution levels within legal limits even with two runways. It's plans to increase freight at the airport are a major stumbling block.
The Government's air quality plan for the country has already been challenged in the court by environmental lawyers at ClientEarth. Two weeks ago the High Court said the plan did not go far enough. The government is now having to come up with a plan with more realistic emissions factors.
The Government also needs to show how billions of pounds can be found to improve road and rail connections to Heathrow.
As part of his Mayoral Direction, Sadiq Khan directed TfL to further assess the impact on London of this proposed expansion, and work closely with the Government during the preparation of its National Policy Statement and planning process to ensure the significant environmental hurdles are fully appreciated.
It has been reported that Heathrow is "confident" any legal challenge will be defeated. We will soon start to find out as organisations line up to tear apart the arguments for Heathrow expansion.