Heathrow runway rival launches legal battle over £14bn project – UK



The sponsor of a rival project to expand capacity at Heathrow Airport has kicked off a legal challenge to thwart last month’s move by Chris Grayling, the embattled Transport Secretary, to approve its £14bn third runway.

Sky News has obtained a letter sent on Friday by lawyers acting for Heathrow Hub – which favours a cheaper scheme to extend one of the airport’s existing runways – ‎which paves the way for it to seek a full judicial review of the Government’s decision.

In the so-called pre-action letter, the law firm DAC Beachcroft accused the Department for Transport (DfT) of failing to provide information about the Heathrow decision-making process sought under freedom of information laws.

It requested that the DfT’s National Policy Statement, w‎hich was designed to end years of logjam over airport expansion, be quashed on five principal grounds.

These include what Heathrow Hub has argued for some time was a flawed understanding on ministers’ part of the capacity for new air traffic movements created by extending the airport’s northern runway.

Heathrow Airport
Sources say Heathrow‎ Hub has engaged Martin Kingston QC in the fight

The privately owned company, which has been funded by the same hedge fund manager who‎ financed a recent exploration for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, also believes it was unlawful for the DfT to “effectively [give Heathrow] a veto over the Claimant’s proposal”.

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Heathrow decision ‘in interests of nation’

Sources said that Heathrow‎ Hub had engaged Martin Kingston QC, a planning expert at No5 Chambers, and Robert O’Donoghue, a prominent figure in cases of competition law from Brick Court, to fight its case.

The pre-action letter threatens to place a further obstacle in the way of Heathrow’s expansion – a policy which has won the backing of many business leaders, but has angered a number of the airport’s biggest airline customers, including British Airways’ parent company.

A separate judicial review ‎process has already been set in motion by five London councils with the support of Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, and Greenpeace, the environmental charity.

A plane lands at Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Hub was set up by Jock Lowe, a former BA pilot

Gatwick was also a serious contender to win the government’s backing for a new runway, but has appeared to rule out a formal legal challenge to Mr Grayling’s decision.

MPs voted overwhelmingly to back the plan in June – a vote which the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was ridiculed for missing over his long-held opposition to Heathrow gaining extra capacity.

Heathrow Airport as it could look after expansion


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One source who backs Heathrow Hub’s proposal said the legal challenge was important because the selection process had been “rigged in favour of Heathrow Airport, which already has a dominant market position”.

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The DfT has previously said it was “confident that our process for decision-making is robust and will strongly defend any challenges”.

Heathrow Hub, which was set up by Jock Lowe, a former BA Concorde pilot, could not be reached for comment on Sunday night.



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