Campaigners and London Boroughs have lost their challenge to the development of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Five local authorities around the West London airport, residents, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as well as environmental groups Plan B, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, brought the case to the High Court in March after MPs backed the plans last June.

They brought the case against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, as campaigners said the runway would effectively create a "new airport", having a "severe" impact on Londoners.

Friends of the Earth alleged that the Government's decision to allow the expansion was unlawful because it failed to take account of the need to mitigate climate change under the Paris agreement.

It was argued that the Government's National Policy Statement (NPS), setting out its support for the project, failed to account fully for the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

Outlining the case on behalf of campaigners, Nigel Pleming QC stated the plans could see the number of passengers using the airport rise to an estimated 132 million, an increase of 60%.

However lawyers representing Mr Grayling said the claimants' case was "unarguable" and "premature" as they would have the opportunity to make representations at a later stage in the planning process.

The arguable grounds put forward included:

  • habitats;
  • relationship with other plans;
  • environmental characteristics of likely areas to be affected not identified;
  • consultation.

Each of the four claims were dismissed.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom, sitting with Mr Justice Holgate commented in the ruling "we understand that these claims involve underlying issues upon which the parties - and indeed many members of the public - hold strong and sincere views".

"There was a tendency for the substance of the parties' positions to take more of a centre stage than perhaps it should have done, in a hearing that was only concerned with the legality, and not the merits, of the Airports National Policy Statement".

The ruling means the Government will not have to devise a new NPS and put it to another vote in Parliament. It won its first vote by a majority of 296 after Labour MPs were granted a free vote.

A spokesperson for Heathrow said "we are delighted with today's ruling, which is a further demonstration that the debate on Heathrow expansion has been had and won, not only in Parliament, but in the courts also. We are getting on with delivering the once-in-a-generation project that will connect Britain to global growth, providing thousands of new jobs and an economic boost for this country and its future generations".

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said "this verdict will not reduce the impact on local communities from increased noise and air pollution, nor will it resolve Heathrow Ltd's financial difficulties or the economic weakness in their expansion plans".

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council commented "today's ruling is hugely disappointing for Londoners. It shows that the Government can drive through expansion plans without properly considering the full environmental and health impacts. But it does not mean the runway will ever be built. It still faces enormous legal obstacles particularly around air pollution".

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth added that expanding Heathrow is wrong on every level and they will not let it go. "We are going to appeal because we believe the court got it wrong".

Renewable capacity growth stalls
Published: 07 May 2019

A new report from the International Energy Association (IEA) has found after nearly two years of strong annual progression, global renewable capacity growth in 2018 remained at the same level as in 2017.

Last year was the first time since 2001 that growth in renewable power capacity failed to increase year on year. New net capacity from solar PV, wind, hydro, bioenergy, and other renewable power sources increased by about 180 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018, the same as the previous year. That’s only around 60% of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals.

Renewables have a major role to play in curbing global emissions. Renewable capacity additions need to grow by over 300 GW on average each year between 2018 and 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario. However, the IEA's analysis shows the world is not doing enough.

Last year, energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7% to a historic high of 33 Gigatonnes. Despite a growth of 7% in renewables electricity generation, emissions from the power sector grew to record levels.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's Executive Director, commented: "The world cannot afford to press 'pause' on the expansion of renewables and governments need to act quickly to correct this situation and enable a faster flow of new projects.

"Thanks to rapidly declining costs, the competitiveness of renewables is no longer heavily tied to financial incentives. What they mainly need are stable policies supported by a long-term vision but also a focus on integrating renewables into power systems in a cost-effective and optimal way. Stop-and-go policies are particularly harmful to markets and jobs."

New Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations SI 2019/703 have been published for England, Wales and Scotland, in order to implement the emergency preparedness and response elements of Directive 2013/59/Euratom on basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation.

They revoke and replace the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations SI 2001/2975.

Purpose of the Regulations

The new Regulations impose duties on operators of premises where work with ionising radiation takes place to identify the hazards arising from the work with such radiation which have the potential to cause a radiation emergency.

Where such hazards exist, the operator must assess the consequences of the radiation emergency, and liaise with the local authority. Both the local authority and the operator must engage in planning against the radiation emergency occurring, test such plans at regular intervals and provide information to the public.

They aim to strengthen emergency preparedness and response arrangements for radiological emergencies, and improve public protection and reduce adverse consequences in the event of an emergency.

The Regulations will deliver a consistent approach to radiation emergency preparedness and response across the civil nuclear, defence licensed and authorised nuclear, and radiological sectors.

Main changes

The main changes from the previous 2001 Regulations include:

  • removal of references associated with transport activities, as the Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations SI 2009/1348, as the result of a 2019 amendment, which now contains emergency arrangements for the transport of radioactive material;
  • modification of the definition of "radiation emergency" and removal of reference to "radiation accidents";
  • introduction of the term "emergency worker";
  • some revised thresholds, scenarios and modelling assumptions;
  • removal of references to "reasonably foreseeable" radiation emergency and strengthening the requirements for operators to assess all work hazards with the potential to cause a radiation emergency;
  • a revised risk assessment framework and consequence assessment methodology;
  • changes to the requirements for hazard evaluation and consequences assessment;
  • the responsibility for determining detailed emergency planning zones now lies with the local authority;
  • introduction of outline planning zones;
  • a new approach to planning for radiation emergencies;
  • strengthening the requirement for local authorities to obtain and supply information to the public in the event of a radiation emergency;
  • disapplication of dose limits to emergency workers;
  • introduction of reference levels;
  • new requirement to consult a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) on specific matters.

Potential new ACoP

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is currently consulting on a new Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) to support the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations SI 2019/703.

This Consultation is open for responses from 10 April 2019 until 5 June 2019, and more details can be found here:

MPs declare climate emergency
Published: 02 May 2019

In an unprecedented move, MPs have approved a motion to declare a climate emergency in Parliament. Although such a proposal does not actually force the Government to do anything, it represents the general will of the Commons, the likes of which has not been seen before in Parliament or abroad.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled the motion which was passed without a vote. However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove apparently did not feel the need to support a declaration of a climate emergency despite the fact he acknowledged there was one.

This declaration comes as the Committee on Climate Change reports that the UK should be at the forefront of the fight against climate change by cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050. The report expects that this can be done at no added costs when compared to previous estimates. This is not an unreasonable request, given that the UK emitted uncontrolled amounts of carbon during the industrial revolution, whilst, during the same period, most other countries did not have anywhere near the same amount of development or emissions.

In response to the report, some have said that the target is still too soft, whilst others have said it could damage the economy. While the Committee on Climate Change said the new proposals would cost tens of billions of pounds a year, the figure represents only 1-2% of national wealth.

The main author of the report, Chris Stark, told the BBC that there were two main considerations behind the report: a significant drop in the cost of renewable energy thanks to government policies to nurture solar and wind power, and a change in public opinion following high profile campaigns led by Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough.

However, despite the fact that public awareness of the problem is increasing, the 2050 target will still not be achievable unless the government supports it through new policies and funding.

Perhaps the timing of this report is key. It comes only days after the government was criticised for failing to include sufficient climate change provisions in its Draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill. Now that the government is scrutinising the Committee's report, perhaps the Draft Bill will be amended before being introduced in Parliament to be passed as an Act.

For more information on this subject, see:

Today the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, announced a new Bill which will ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

Some of the animals which currently perform in circuses include reindeer, zebras and camels. The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill makes provision to prohibit the use of such animals in travelling circuses and will apply to circus operators in England.

During the announcement speech, Michael Gove said: "travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st century and I am pleased that this legislation will put an end to this practice for good".

"Today's announcement follows other measures we have taken to strengthen our position as a world leader in animal protection. This includes our ban on ivory sales to protect elephants, and delivering Finn's Law to strengthen the protection of service animals".

The Bill has been welcomed by animal welfare supporters and charities. Dr Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity at the Born Free Foundation said:

"After years of waiting for this issue to be resolved, Born Free is delighted that Mr Gove will now bring this Bill forward. The use of wild animals in travelling circuses is outdated and unpopular, and this legislation will bring England into line with a long and increasing list of countries which have banned this practice. Born Free and its supporters have campaigned for a long time for this outcome and we look forward to the swift progress of the Bill through Parliament".

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA said "we really welcome the Government introducing a Bill to ban the outdated practice of using wild animals in circuses".

"We've campaigned against having wild animals in circuses for many years. They have complex needs that cannot be properly met in a circus environment. It's high time keeping wild animals in circuses is consigned to the history books and we look forward to the day that it is banned for good in England".

Last week Natural England published a new license to kill or take carrion crows (GL26), which is the first document of the updated series of licenses to control certain wild birds. 

The general license to control certain wild bird species was revoked on 23 April 2019 following a legal challenge brought by environmental group Wild Justice. Before the updated licenses were published, landowners and farmers had to apply for an individual license to control these animals.

The new license allows for the:

  • killing or taking of carrion crows to prevent serious damage to specified types of livestock that are vulnerable to predation by this species; and
  • destruction of carrion crow nests and eggs.

So far only crows were addressed and the remaining licenses for controlling certain wild birds are to be published in the coming days and weeks. Natural England aims to publish new licenses as quickly as possible, beginning with the species that are most likely to require urgent control.

From now on landowners and farmers, where for example crows cause harm to new lambs, can now control these birds, and can do so without applying for an individual license. For people that need to urgently control other species for which a license has not been issued yet, Natural England has published a simplified online application system for individual wild bird control licenses.

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