Councils question legality of runway consultation
"A consultation to be lawful must be viewed with an open mind", therefore the fact that government Ministers put forward the case for a third runway at Heathrow during a Department for Transport consultation on the issue could make that consultation illegal.
This is the argument put forward by four councils that oppose Heathrow expansion. The four Conservative-run councils (Windsor & Maidenhead, Hillingdon, Richmond & Wandsworth) indicate that pro-Heathrow statements made by Conservative ministers, including Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, could have legal ramifications.
The closing date for public comments on the revised Draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was 19th December 2017 and the responses are still being analysed. The content of those responses should influence the final Airports NPS, which, according to the DfT, will give "the specific requirements that the applicant for a new north-west runway at Heathrow Airport will need to meet to gain development consent."
This is the second part of the consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), the first having run from February to May 2017 with inadequate information. Documents had to be updated and a further consultation began in October 2017 on the revised Airports NPS.
The whole process has been heavily biased in favour of a third runway at Heathrow. No matter how compelling the evidence that a third runway (or an extended second runway) is the wrong choice, the government has continued to express its preference for the Heathrow scheme. Even though every taxpayer would have to subsidise this foreign-owned airport's plans, the Transport Secretary would rather make statements supporting a third runway than look at better uses for that money.
The submissions to the Dft consultation by the four councillors have cited both the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and former Aviation Minister Lord Callanan for their pro-Heathrow comments while the government is supposed to have an open mind.
For example, in October 2017 Chris Grayling said that the government was “aiming to give (the third runway) the formal go-ahead in the first half of next year” and that the expansion would “make a difference right across this country".
The boroughs are members of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, which opposed Heathrow expansion. Paul McGuinness, chairman of the coalition, said: “There’s a growing sense that the case for Heathrow’s third runway is falling apart. The evidence, including the government’s own, simply no longer stacks up to support it. The only thing they seem to have on their side is the (Department for Transport), whose prejudgment in advance of its own consultation is now raising serious legal questions in the year ahead.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We have been clear that our preferred option for increasing airport capacity is a third runway at Heathrow. We have consulted with an open mind and once we have reviewed all of the submissions we will set out how we intend to proceed.”
Chris Grayling doing Heathrow's job by promoting a third runway in Northumberland and stating that a third runway was a done deal. This was regardless of the forthcoming consultation in 2017.. (October 2016)