Grayling to face legal action over Heathrow expansion plan

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, is facing a fresh headache over Heathrow as a group of councils confirmed they were planning legal action against expansion, just hours after MPs voted overwhelmingly to back a third runway.

In an embarrassing blow for Theresa May, Conservative-run Windsor and Maidenhead, the prime minister’s own local council, suggested after Monday night’s vote that it was seriously considering joining the judicial review.

The council leader, Simon Dudley, said he was disappointed by the result and had hoped that MPs “would see sense” and listen to their constituents whose daily lives would be dramatically affected.

“We have tried to bring [our] concerns to the attention of the government and campaigned again and again against expanding Heathrow at the expense of the millions who live it its shadow,” he said.

“We will continue to hold government to account and look at all options, including potential legal action, as we assess how we move forward with our partners from this frustrating outcome on behalf of residents.”

Adam Afriyie, the Windsor MP, was among eight Tories who rebelled against the government, telling ministers that Heathrow was “pulling a fast one” over the Department for Transport.

Other boroughs backing the action are Hillingdon, where the airport is located, Richmond-upon-Thames, Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham, all of which are under the west London flight path.

Tory councillor Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth, said the third runway proposal would not survive “independent, lawful and rational” scrutiny in the courts.

Gareth Thomas, the new Liberal Democrat leader of Richmond, said: “We will fight this proposal through the courts and we will win because the alternative is to condemn thousands of people to premature deaths from dangerous levels of air pollution. We will use all the tools at our disposal to end this third runway nightmare once and for all.”

Ray Puddifoot, who leads Tory-run Hillingdon, where Boris Johnson is an MP, warned Grayling not to try to frustrate legal challenge being brought against his decision to press ahead with the “highly flawed” project.

He said: “For the avoidance of any doubt, this will not in any way deter Hillingdon and its partners from bringing a challenge and indeed, it will only encourage us to refer the matter to the High Court as soon as possible. The necessary groundwork for a robust legal challenge will be prepared immediately and we will, now that Parliament has failed us, do all that we can to bring this sorry saga to an end once and for all.”

Stephen Cowan of Hammersmith and Fulham said: “We absolutely refuse to sit back and let such a potentially catastrophic decision be made without a fight. If we need to take legal action, we will.”

The councils have six weeks to challenge the decision through judicial review if the government formally designates the national planning statement supporting the third runway.

Anti-expansion campaigners suggested that the paperwork required to launch legal action could be ready within days, with Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and Greenpeace backing the move.

Khan said that despite the vote being the “wrong decision” for Londoners, it did not represent the end of the fight. “I’m joining the legal action brought by local authorities in opposition to Heathrow expansion,” he said.

Ruth Maclean 

This article first appeared on the Guardian

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