Government will be challenged in the courts over Heathrow decision

Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, together with Greenpeace and a resident of Hillingdon, have today served legal papers on the government for unlawfully supporting the expansion of Heathrow.

News release: 08 December 2016

In a legal submission to the High Court, the ‘coalition’ is seeking a Judicial Review of the government’s decision to support the expansion of the airport – something that the government previously promised would never happen.

Harrison Grant Solicitors, on behalf of the ‘coalition’ have filed a formal request for a judicial review. If successful, it is hoped the case will be heard in the High Court early next year.

Together, the claimants argue that the government has failed to recognise the project’s unlawful air quality impacts and that the consultation held to make the decision was fundamentally flawed. Therefore, the expansion of the airport cannot go ahead. In addition, the legal challenge seeks to hold government to the promise that a third runway would never be built.

If the request is successful, and the coalition wins the judicial review, the decision to proceed with the runway would be overturned. 

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said:

“The government has stubbornly refused to accept that it is breaking the law on the very important issue of air quality in relation to Heathrow. Therefore, this Council, together with the London Boroughs of Wandsworth and Richmond upon Thames, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Greenpeace and a Hillingdon resident, have had no option other than to issue judicial review proceedings in the High Court. 

“There are two grounds of challenge at this stage. In addition to our claim that there as been a significant breach of established air quality laws, we have also claimed that the government has acted contrary to our legitimate expectation that it would honour its repeated promises not to expand Heathrow. However, it has been made very clear to the government that we have fully reserved our position in relation to other matters of complaint such as climate change, equalities, noise pollution and the economic case for Heathrow expansion and that, if necessary, further legal proceedings will be brought in the future.”

Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“The expansion of Heathrow would be the worst action of any government in modern times. And, the process in which Ministers have made their decision is dishonest,incompetent and goes back on a six year commitment never to expand the airport.

“Millions of people have already told the government that they won’t stand for any expansion. Indeed – 100,000 people voted NO in the referendum run by us and Hillingdon. Their objections have so far fallen on deaf ears. We have given the government every opportunity to change their minds, to relook at the evidence that clearly shows expansion is not feasible. Instead they seem hell-bent on driving through an expansion that will create further havoc for the environment and way heavily on the public purse.

“Therefore we have no choice. We will take every available step to fight the expansion – in the courts and every other forum available to us. And stop it.”

Leader of Wandsworth Council, Cllr Ravi Govindia said:

“This feels like Groundhog Day for many of us. Back in 2010 we overturned the Brown Government’s plans for a third runway on environmental grounds and we’re now heading back to the same court to do it all over again. Six years later and we now know that air pollution is far more damaging to health and this expansion proposal is far bigger and more polluting than the last. It beggars belief that our government has backed a plan which is so clearly untenable in law and common sense and we have been left with no choice but to defend our residents interests in the courts.”

Cllr Simon Dudley, Leader of The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said:

“The Royal Borough has been very consistent in saying it will hold government to account for its decision and seek to protect our residents from the public health risks of an expanded Heathrow Airport. Our involvement in this legal action seeks to achieve those objectives, and in addition our long standing objections to and manifesto commitments to resist the expansion of Heathrow Airport and protect our residents.”

reenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, said: “Ministers have been clutching at straws to avoid admitting one simple fact – that it’s practically impossible to expand Heathrow without breaking air pollution rules and busting our climate targets. The government’s own advisers have warned that without steeper carbon cuts on the rest of the economy a third runway would breach the UK’s climate targets. The government’s air pollution plans have also been found wanting by a damning High Court ruling. It’s clear that ministers greenlighted the third runway without thinking through its repercussions for people and the environment. This is reckless and unlawful. If ministers are hell bent on disregarding the laws that protect us from pollution, a courtroom is where we’re going to hold them to account. We have stopped a third runway once before, and we can do it again.”

Christine Taylor, who lives in Harlington, close to Heathrow airport, and is a co-claimant in the Judicial Review, said:

“We lived under the shadow of a third runway for decades. Then we were promised over and over again that it wouldn’t go ahead, and now the nightmare has started all over again. This is hugely unfair on local residents who were also promised that they wouldn’t still be suffering the high levels of noise and air pollution that Heathrow generates. Many people around here have made crucial choices like buying a home or taking up a job based on ministers’ promises. Now their life plans have been shattered. If ministers want to go through with this injustice, we’re ready to go to court to stop them.”




Judicial review is a process by which the courts review the lawfulness of a decision made (or sometimes lack of a decision made) or action taken (or sometimes failure to act) by a public body. It is mechanism by which a judge considers whether a public body has acted in accordance with its legal obligations and if not, can declare a decision taken by it invalid.

An alliance between Greenpeace and local councils successfully overturned the Brown Government’s backing for a third runway in the High Court in 2010, which prompted the incoming Cameron Government to emphatically rule it out.

Public Meeting – John McDonnell MP


John McDonnell MP is holding two urgent public meetings as part of the fight against Heathrow expansion.

Harlington Baptist Church Hall, 266 High Street, Harlington, Middlesex UB3 5DG (beside the village green) – 8pm on Thursday 8th December

Yiewsley and West Drayton Community Centre, Harmondsworth Road, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 9JL – 7pm on Friday 9th December

This is likely to be your last chance this year to hear an update on the campaign and put questions to those most closely involved in the battle to put an end to the threat of a third runway.

The latest proposals won’t just mean the destruction of several Heathrow villages but for those left behind it would be more flights, more road traffic, more noise and more pollution.

“Heathrow Homeless” deliver runway to airport bosses

Villagers under threat of losing their homes if Heathrow gets the go-ahead for expansion took their protest to houses owned by two airport bosses on Bank Holiday Monday to deliver a roll-out plastic version of the third runway.

A group calling themselves Residents Against Expansion, organised and funded a “Heathrow Homeless Coach Tour”, inviting residents and their supporters to bring a suitcase to highlight the plight of thousands of people who would be forced to look for alternative places to live. Their destination was kept a secret until everyone was on the coach ready for departure from Harmondsworth Village at 9.30am.

The first stopping point was Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye’s £3m house in Oxford. As the coach pulled up nearby it was evident that the detached, four-storey property was undergoing a major renovation and expansion programme of its own and was unoccupied. Undeterred, the residents quickly unrolled a 4m x 25m plastic version of the third runway bearing the slogan “No If, No Buts”, a reminder of David Cameron’s anti-expansion stance before the 2010 General Election.

After a brief group photo with their suitcases, the group repacked the coach and headed off to David Cameron’s constituency office in Witney, Oxfordshire.

On reaching Witney’s high street, Harmondsworth resident Armelle Thomas (69) went over to the solitary door, which is sandwiched between two shops. She clutched an old photograph of her husband Tommy as a young member of the RAF during the Second World War. Tommy had died on Friday morning, aged 93, but Armelle was determined to join the coach party to voice her disgust that her husband’s last months had been made a misery by the news on 1st July that Sir Howard Davies had recommended Heathrow and the destruction of their longtime home.

John Holland Kaye told reporters on that day that “the argument was settled once and for all” (even though it wasn’t and the government has yet to make a decision) and later said Heathrow could get “shovels in the ground in 2019″. The CEO’s ridiculous and insensitive boasting demonstrated that it was business as usual at Heathrow after years of trying to convince the public that it would not adopt the untrustworthy and deceitful behaviour typical of BAA. Holland Kaye’s comments to the press destroyed years of attempts to improve community relations.

On route to the next destination, a road sign declared that Witney is twinned with Le Touquet in France, which added to Armelle’s sense that her late husband was with the group in spirit; Le Touquet was Tommy’s birthplace.

Pouring rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the protesters and they stepped out of the coach at the third and final stop in Henley-on-Thames, the home of Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Director of Sustainability and Environment. The house was unmistakable from the road as there was a large “Proud to Back Heathrow” poster in the window and a sticker in the back window of the car on the drive. Mr Gorman doesn’t keep a low profile. On reading these public declarations of support for the third runway proposals, the residents decided to deliver Mr Gorman something he might like – a runway outside his front door.

Later online research showed that the 5-bed detached house was bought in 2008 for £1,025,000 and could now be worth £1,365,000. If that estimate is accurate, Matt Gorman’s profit alone in the past 8 years is greater than the full valuation of many homes in the Heathrow villages. Little wonder that wealthy bosses at Heathrow don’t understand the fears of people living in blighted homes. No plans are being made to create new housing for displaced people. No schemes have been put into legal documents. No support is planned for tenants made homeless. These are issues that need to be addressed BEFORE a decision is made on Heathrow expansion.

At the Henley house, a calm and confident young woman came to the front door and talked to two villagers. They reassured her that this was a short peaceful protest and they’d soon be on their way. It was a good-natured conversation, as was the protest until half a dozen neighbours decided to come out of their houses to vent their anger about having protesters in their street. Their behaviour was a marked contrast to the sympathetic response from people in Oxford and Witney. Mr Gorman’s neighbours found it acceptable to make provocative, threatening and offensive remarks to people who had arrived to conduct a peaceful protest about their situation.

Soon afterwards, as protesters were preparing to leave, Mr Gorman arrived followed by a police officer.

Armelle Thomas with photo of her late war-hero husband shows what it means to be proud. Sheila Taylor (84), a lifelong Sipson resident, stands with her. Sheila’s home will effectively be INSIDE the airport’s proposed new boundary with her road enclosed on three sides by airport fencing. As proposals stand, Heathrow will NOT buy her house to build a runway and will instead leave her sandwiched between two runways and car parks.

Mr Gorman asked the police officer various questions to ascertain if there were laws to use against the people from the Heathrow communities who had visited him, who he had been told were taking photographs of the house and had walked on his driveway. No crime had been committed and the residents went happily on their way leaving the tiny cluster of Henley moaners to shuffle out of the rain and back into their expensive homes, free from aircraft noise and choking pollution.

One wonders how these people would react if Mr Gorman wanted to force them from their homes to build a real runway!

Mr Gorman has claimed to be interested in feedback from communities but on his day off from work he made it clear he had no interest in their views.


MPs, Councillors and Campaigners remind Cameron of his runway pledge. No If’s, No But’s

A big thank you to the group of MPs, Councillors and Campaigners against Heathrow expansion who went to No 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, 3rd February to deliver a reminder to the Prime Minister.  

Shortly before the 2010 election, Conservative leader David Cameron had pledged, “no ifs, no buts; there will be no third runway.”

With the Elections looming and the closing date for the Davis Airport Expansion Commission having ended it was a good time for anti-expansion campaigners to remind Prime Minister Cameron of his promise and the reasons why expansion is a bad idea.

A large group of campaigners travelled to Central London to protest however only a small group were allowed through security and into Downing Street.  Representatives had to give their details in advance and pass security checks.

Members of this group included:

MPs John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington); Andy Slaughter MP (Hammersmith); Kate Hoey MP (Vauxhall); Zac Goldsmith MP (Richmond Park and North Kingston); Angie Bray MP (Ealing Central and Acton); Mary Macleod MP (Brentford and Isleworth); John Randall MP (Uxbridge and South Ruislip);  Adam Afriye MP (Windsor); Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion)

Baroness Jenny Tonge (Lib Dem).

Campaigners:  John Stewart, Chairman of HACAN;  Neil Keveren, Chair of SHE;  Natasha Fletcher (Teddington Action Group); Charles Burke (Colnbrook Community Association)

John Stewart said, “We are deliberately targeting Downing Street because the decision about a new runway will be a political one.  The politicians can override whatever recommendations the Airports Commission will come up with in the summer.  This event once again demonstrates the cross-party nature of the opposition to a 3rd runway. It also shows the geographical spread of the current problems caused by Heathrow, which can only get worse of a new runway is built. Representatives of groups from as far apart as Brockley and Teddington will be going into Downing Street.”

Deadline For Responses to Airport Commission on Heathrow Expansion

Submission by John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington

Whatever one feels about the expansion of Heathrow, there comes a time now when we have to have honesty.  Of every expansion, we have been told as a community that there would be no further expansion.  I have been in this area for 40 years.  I have represented in Parliament my constituency for 17 years.  Before that, I was a GLC councillor.  I held my first meetings about Heathrow expansion in the early 1970s. Over the years since then I have been at every public hearing announcing expansion proposals. I have been at every planning application inquiry, and at every one we have been told by Heathrow airport, ‘If we get this expansion, that will be the limit’.  On the last occasion at a specially convened public meeting in a local hotel a letter was read to us by a senior airport representative saying, ‘We do not need and we will not seek a third runway’.  With the greatest respect to Heathrow Ltd, as a corporate body Heathrow Limited like BAA before it just cannot be trusted.

I want to raise a number of questions that have come from my constituents, who have waded through the Commission’s documentation. I want to congratulate the Commission for the work it has done.  This is the first time we have had this detailed appraisal in this way.  In addition to that, this is the first time any commission has actually looked at issues around quality of life and community.  I commend Sir Howard Davies and his colleagues for doing that.

The question from my constituents whose homes are going to be affected is: ‘Where will we go?’  We were told first of all the numbers at risk started at about 300.  They then went to 783, then plus another 289.  That was about 3,000 who would lose their homes.  We were then told there would be others affected by the A4 relocation.  Now Heathrow Limited have come up with a compensation scheme that actually comes near to the figure we ourselves predicted, which is 4,000 homes which will either be demolished or rendered unliveable so that people will want to move.  That is nearly 8-10,000 of my constituents.  This will be the largest forced removal of a community in our peacetime history.  Where will they go?  

In May of this year the housing waiting list for Hillingdon Council was 12,000.  The council is housing only about 700 families a year.  The private market in our area has a limited supply in future years, which was revealed by the site survey by the council in its consultation on our local plan.  Like-for-like properties – in other words, in the Heathrow villages, houses with gardens – are almost impossible to find within the local area.  Where will they go?  Where will they be accommodated?  To be frank, to come up with a proposal without identifying the solution is just not acceptable.  

Our communities are living, breathing, thriving communities.  They comprise all the elements of a living community; schools and nurseries.  As a result of these proposals, Harmondsworth Primary School and the Harmondsworth and Longford nurseries will be demolished.  Heathrow Primary School, to be frank, will also be rendered unteachable.  We will lose two primary schools, and possibly three.  Where will our children go?  We have just gone through an expansion of our education system in the south of the borough.  We are desperately seeking places.  We have expanded virtually every local school.  The council, despite bitter opposition from the local community, has been forced to build on green belt for the first time in its history to accommodate a new school.  Where will we go?  Where will our children be taught in the future?  Where will the replacement schools and the replacement nurseries be located?  There has been no showing of the sites that are available, because there are none.  

Green Spaces
The Commission identifies some of the land that will be taken to accommodate a new runway including our local parks and our green belt.  It includes Sipson recreation ground, our community centre and parts of Colne Valley Regional Park.  It has been blithely promised in the community impact assessment these will be relocated.  I just ask the simple question: where?  Land is in desperate short supply in this part of the area.  It is designated for housing, largely.  Where are the sites available for relocation of our open spaces and our country park areas?  Are brownfield sites to be converted?  Where are these sites?  I have scoured the maps.  We have looked at the maps for alternatives and it is impossible to find.  We have already our open space or green belt and I cannot see this being expanded under these proposals, because there are no options that have been brought forward.  

Community Cohesion
The issue that has been brought forward for the first time by the Commission – and I congratulate it for it – is the examination of community cohesion.  It is the first time in any assessment of airport expansion it has been looked at.  We have a sense of community – a sense of place – grown over generations in our villages and settlements, which have existed not just for centuries but, in the case of Harmondsworth, for 1,000 years.  Families have lived together for generations.  This is a traditional Middlesex village.  So is Harlington.  So is Longford.  So is Sipson.  They still exist: the church; the school; the green; the pub; the village hall.  Names of families enjoined together on its war memorial.  These are all irreplaceable.  

In the Commission’s document on community impact it says: ‘At the very local level, it is difficult to see any existing community cohesion being maintained unless entire communities and their facilities were moved en masse at the same time’.  That is impossible, and this document accepts that.  Where is the land for that?  Where is it possible to actually overcome the destruction of a community like that?  Is it not just dishonest to even hold out that prospect?  

Environmental Issues
To be frank, we already live in an area where air pollution is at the edge of or exceeding European limits.  How can it be that an increase in the aircraft movements and the expansion of passenger numbers, vehicle movements and freight movements cannot make air pollution worse?  It is just not credible to argue so.  There is a proposal that there will be mitigation measures.  Why are those mitigation measures not in place now when in our area we lose 80-100 people who die each year as a result of air pollution and 3,000 across London? How can anyone tolerate a worsening of this situation?  

Noise similarly.  What assurances can be given to local residents currently affected, but especially those not affected currently by noise, when flight paths are so uncertain and not definitive at present?  What happens in the future, on both air pollution and noise, if the assurances given today are not adhered to?  On air pollution, does Heathrow Airport suddenly close for a few days until the air improves?  Does Heathrow Airport stop flying because they have gone beyond the noise limits?  Of course not.  We will be trapped in an environment which is polluted and noisy, with no recourse to action.  

My constituents have expressed to me that the assessment of the health implications of airport expansion has been extremely limited.  What in-depth studies are to be commissioned to establish the health implications of expansion?  Is there to be, as we asked for, an independent, open public inquiry into the health implications of expanding Heathrow?  The consequences for residents living near the airport and people working at the airport are absolutely critical in health terms.

The Commission has looked at the whole range of factors on deliverability – the issues around air pollution, environment, economic impact, etc. – but I think there are other factors as well.  One of them is political deliverability.

To be credible in its recommendations the Commission must also take into account the political realities of the situation. There is no point in the Commission opting for a solution that is just politically undeliverable. Expansion at Heathrow is politically undeliverable.   

First, I do not believe that taking into account the party politics in the west of London any political party is going to risk the loss of the wide range of marginal seats that there is in the area.  There has not been a candidate elected in a marginal seat in West London proposing expansion of Heathrow Airport; in fact, all of them have stood on tickets of opposition to expansion.  That includes local council candidates as well. 

Second, although climate change may not be a critical issue at the moment because of the economic recession, it will grow again.  I believe that climate change and the impact on climate change of Heathrow Airport will be one of those factors that will be taken into account more readily in these coming months as we move towards a general election and then beyond.  

Third I urge the Commission not to underestimate the depth of anger that there is in my community.  Do not underestimate the depth of anger that there will be if there are proposals to expand Heathrow Airport.  We have been lied to by Heathrow Airport over the years, but I have to also say politicians have not been honest with us either.  Before the last election, there was no caveat that the commitment of ‘no ifs, no buts’ was only for the life of a Parliament.  Last time we had Heathrow threaten expansion, Climate Camp turned up and there was a direct action campaign. If there are proposals to go ahead with Heathrow Airport, Heathrow will be the iconic battleground not just for our local communities to fight for their villages but for the community across London, this country and maybe Europe to campaign against climate change.  I do not believe this is deliverable.  In fact, our community will make sure it is not deliverable.  If that comes by political action or direct action, be assured we will be there.


Hollow promises of Heathrow expansion revealed

Serious flaws in proposals to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport have been laid bare by Hillingdon Council in its detailed response to the Airports Commission consultation on expanding airport capacity in London.

Last week (Thursday 22 January) the council’s Cabinet approved the response, which included a specially commissioned report on the impact of Heathrow expansion on the health and quality of life of people living nearby. It will now be sent to the Airports Commission.

The Airports Commission is currently considering three airport expansion options, one at Gatwick Airport and two at Heathrow.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said:

“Despite spending considerable time and resources on publicity demonstrating the benefits of building a third runway, Heathrow Airport’s proposals are full of hollow promises and gaping holes, lacking any realistic assessment of the impact Heathrow expansion would have on our community.

“It beggars belief that increased noise levels, heightened flood risk, public transport pressures, reduction of air quality, not to mention the trauma of uprooting families who have lived locally for decades, are being glossed over by Heathrow. We are also concerned that the so-called economic benefits of expanding this airport do not stand up to closer scrutiny and ultimately would not benefit Hillingdon residents.

“The recent activities of Heathrow and its PR machine have demonstrated that neither they nor their incredibly dubious survey results can be believed or taken seriously. Our detailed response to the Airport Commission’s consultation lays bare these vitally important concerns, which demand to be taken seriously.”

The consultation period ends on 3 February 2015. After this, the Airports Commission will look at all responses and publish its final recommendations in summer 2015.

For more information, visit