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Grimshaw’s £14bn Heathrow masterplan grounded as expansion ruled unlawful


Plans for a £14 billion expansion of Heathrow Airport, masterplanned by Grimshaw Architects, have been deemed unlawful by the Court of Appeal on environmental grounds

The UK’s largest airport, in west London, had been due to open a third runway by 2026. Parliament gave its blessing to the work in 2018 and a detailed plan for the works was published last summer (Grimshaw reveals masterplan for controversial Heathrow expansion).

But the scheme has suffered a major setback after the Court of Appeal today ruled (February 27) that the national policy statement for the expansion ignored the governments’ climate change commitments made under the 2016 Paris Agreement.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps used Twitter to rule out an appeal to the decision but the government could still draw up a new policy statement to approve the runway. 

However, prime minister Boris Johnson is a long-standing sceptic of Heathrow expansion. Johnson was absent for the House of Commons vote on it 2018 and, as mayor of London, pledged to lie in front of bulldozers to prevent expansion.

As mayor, Johnson was also against the expansion of Gatwick, instead backing plans for a new airport in the Thames estuary.

Designs for the airport were drawn up by Foster + Partners but were dismissed by the Airport Commission, which said it had ‘serious doubts about the delivery and operation’ of the four-runway proposal.

Grimshaw was appointed to the Heathrow job in 2016 after seeing off competition from Zaha Hadid Architects, Benoy and HOK.

The practice has yet to respond to a request for comment on what the decision means for its business.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said he was ‘delighted’ by the decision, adding: ‘The government must now finally see sense and abandon plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

‘We really are facing a climate emergency and it’s about time the government started taking action to address this.’


Statement from Grimshaw on ruling

The judgement of the Court of Appeal relates to the government’s process in designating the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). Importantly, the judgement does not say that Heathrow’s expansion should not go ahead, nor that it is incompatible with the UK’s climate change obligations.

Grimshaw welcomes the growing emphasis on meeting climate change commitments, and we believe that the expansion of Heathrow can be consistent with these commitments. Additional runway capacity continues to be needed, not only for passengers, and but also for the significant transportation of freight that is vital to the UK’s trade and economy. We believe that Heathrow’s expansion represents the best opportunity to achieve these aims, with a net zero-carbon approach to infrastructure development.

We sincerely hope that the government now move quickly to review and amend the ANPS so that the project can get underway.



Readers' comments (4)

  • Boris absented himself from the vote in 2018 in favour of an 'away day' in Afghanistan, and must now be wondering whether to grab the credit or keep his head down.

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  • Thames Estuary airpot is the only sane solution to a future with air transport as a key component of our economy. Heathrow great opportunity for new inner london garden village, why expand an airport in the middle of the country that is so fraught with difficulty just because it's ther?

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  • Short-term Gatwick; medium-term Stansted (plus Crossrail spur link); long-term estuary. Planning permission existed for the latter in the early 1970s and it could have opened before the end of the last century. The London Borough of Heathrow could accommodate a big chunk of the capital's population increase in the coming decades, free of aviation noise and pollution.

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  • I wonder if the excess pressure on Heathrow would disappear if people and freight in transit to and from places outwith the UK were discouraged?
    The transit business must presumably be substantial - and must contribute to the viability and thus variety of routes to and from Heathrow - but does that justify the extra noise and pollution?

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