Coronavirus puts Heathrow airport third runway in ‘deep freeze’

Heathrow’s long-anticipated third runway is now in the “deep freeze” amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the UK’s leading airline association.

The contentious expansion could now be pushed back several years, as it is thought a global recession could push the project off the government’s agenda, reports The Telegraph.

The Board of Airline Representatives, the industry association representing the majority of airlines operating to the UK, told members in an email: “Heathrow expansion is now in the deep freeze until the Government comes forward with when, how, or if it intends to revise the [policy documents] required for Heathrow.

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“Given the date for a third runway had already been pushed back to late 2028 or early 2029, then we are now looking at 2030 and beyond should the Government proceed.”

It follows Heathrow’s proposed expansion being blocked by the Court of Appeal in a landmark ruling in February 2020.

Judges concluded the government’s decision to permit the expansion of the UK’s busiest airport was illegal because ministers did not take into account the impact it would have on the country’s commitment to tackle global warming.

Lord Justice Lindblom told the court: “The Paris Agreement ought to have been taken into account by the Secretary of State in the preparation of the NPS and an explanation given as to how it was taken into account, but it was not.”

The government said it would not be appealing the decision, while an airport spokesperson declared that the issue was “eminently fixable”.

They said: “The Court of Appeal dismissed all appeals against the government – including on ‘noise’ and ‘air quality’ – apart from one which is eminently fixable. We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident that we will be successful.

“In the meantime, we are ready to work with the Government to fix the issue that the court has raised.”

Millions of pounds have already been spent on preparing for the new runway.

Contractors have been told that work will be put “on hold” until there is more certainty around the project’s future.

It comes as much of mainland Europe and the US have imposed “lock-downs” banning or severely curtailing international travel in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.

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