May 7, 2020 / 10:52 AM / a month ago

Heathrow Airport to proceed with appeal over block to expansion

FILE PHOTO: An aircrafts lands at the north runaway at Heathrow Airport near London, Britain October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) - Heathrow, Britain’s biggest airport, said it would proceed with an appeal against a block on its plans for expansion, after the UK’s Supreme Court gave the move the green light.

Heathrow, which before the coronavirus pandemic was the busiest airport in Europe and completely full, said it would go ahead with the legal battle to build the 14 billion pound new runway despite the impact of COVID-19 which means it had 97% fewer passengers in April.

Judges granted permission to appeal against the February ruling on Thursday. That ruling said that the UK government’s airport expansion policy was unlawful as it failed to take into account its climate change commitments.

But since then, the novel coronavirus has brought air travel to a halt and led to forecasts for a travel slump lasting several years, throwing into doubt the need for a new runway at Heathrow.

Heathrow said in a statement that while its priority was on responding to the coronavirus, its expansion, which involves the construction of a third runway, was still important in the long term and so it was going ahead with its appeal.

“We do believe that once the benefits of air travel and connectivity have been restored in years to come, an expanded Heathrow will be required,” a spokesman for the airport said.

Heathrow has been trying to win permission to expand for decades, but the issue has been dogged by political dispute and worries over pollution. The ruling against it two months ago was seen as a victory for climate change campaigners.

Reporting by Alistair Smout and Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton

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