As mentioned in a previous post, the approval of a third runway at Heathrow has caused consternation among those concerned about the potential impact on the environment. In response various groups, including a number of West London councils and environmentalists, have forged an unlikely union in order to begin court proceedings against the Government. Even Sadiq Khan has tossed his hat in the ring by backing the ambitious legal action.
The London Mayor has instructed Transport for London to support four local councils as well as Greenpeace and will name them as an ‘interested party’ in the action. Under Khan’s instructions, the TFL will provide ‘expert’ advice to Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils – environmental activists Greenpeace will also receive support.
Khan’s involvement will add considerable weight to the legal action although he is yet to decide whether he will formally join the challenge at the expense of beleaguered London taxpayers. Nevertheless, the mayor has deemed the Government’s approval of a third runway as having ‘devastating environmental consequences’ as well as being an ‘intolerable’ prospect for the 200,000 Londoners wo will be exposed to ‘unacceptable’ levels of noise and pollution. He also has concerns about how the Government will find the money to pay for the improvement of road and rail links to Heathrow. Khan maintains that he will be ready to ‘play an active role in the action if required’. It is however unclear as to the extent of his ‘active role’ and if it will extend to him chaining himself to environmental activists outside parliament.
Opposition to expansion remains, despite assurances from the Government that it can be delivered within air quality requirements. However, the High Court’s rejection of the Government’s air quality plans has perhaps emboldened politicians like Sadiq Khan to get involved with the controversial project, with the knowledge that at least some of the establishment is on his side; whether his involvement is more about political posturing and/or party political allegiances remains to be seen.
It is perhaps worth mentioning the perils of getting too involved in such a controversial issue. Zach Goldsmith sacrificed a promising political career in the name of the environment. His resignation in protest at the Government’s decision to give the go-ahead for the third runway should be a cautionary tale for somebody like Khan whose political aspirations are well known.
Whatever Khan’s motives may be, the controversy will rumble on for a few more months, maybe even years. However, the legal action isn’t unprecedented and opponents to the expansion will no doubt be encouraged by the successful rulings by both the High Court and Supreme Court in recent months which rejected the Governmental air quality plans. However, a favourable decision regarding the actual expansion of Heathrow Airport seems extremely unlikely, given the sheer amount of commercial interests and political pressures relating to the project. So unfortunately, maybe Khan and his activists shouldn’t hold their breath on this one.
Image Accreditation – U.S Embassy London