The government’s decision to expand Heathrow Airport has been ruled ‘unlawful’ by the Court of Appeal, on climate change grounds. This decision may point to a new way to save Arundel’s countryside from the current very damaging A27 bypass proposals.
Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth said: ‘The Court has specifically recognised how the climate crisis needs to be at the heart of major infrastructure decisions. It’s time that the government catches up with this fact and stops pursuing its outdated climate-wrecking transport projects, such as major new roads and airport expansion at Heathrow or elsewhere, and instead gives us the clean transport network we need.’
This is cheering news right now, at the end of Highways England’s latest ‘review period’ or public consultation, presenting new ‘corrections’ to their 2019 documents (you can respond until 11.59 on 1 March). That has been depressing because the process altogether has been no more than a confusing smoke screen for Highways England to carry on business as usual. The corrections, inadequate as they are, do not alter the fact that the scheme is hugely damaging to wildlife, communities and the climate.
If Highways England decide to adopt a damaging new Preferred Route such as Magenta, these errors – and their inadequate consultation process - may or may not add up to a possible legal challenge. But the new decision about Heathrow opens up a whole new possibility of legal action based on HE’s disregard of the government’s obligations about Climate Change.
Some examples of their still uncorrected errors:
- Woodland/environmental impact
The brochure (August 2019) prominently attributed too large a figure for woodland ‘impact’ to Cyan and Beige options, making them look twice as damaging as Magenta. The figures were under a heading ‘environmental impact’ and so fuelled the misconception that Cyan and Beige, the part-online routes, are more environmentally damaging than the offline options. Non-existent woodland was added to a map to justify the figures. This error is only partially corrected.
- Cultural heritage
The brochure errors over-emphasised the damage from the Crimson route and under-estimated the damage from Magenta. HE have added mention of listed buildings, but there is still no mention of the damage to villages of Tortington and Binsted.
Ecological data were not available for Grey or Magenta routes since 2017 surveys did not cover those routes. Wrong conclusions remain – e.g. that the Magenta route’s ‘operation’ would have a ‘neutral’ effect on the Binsted Woods Local Wildlife Site.
- Noise wrongly assessed
The corrections reveal that ‘noise related health impacts’ were wrongly assessed in 2019 as ‘not significant’ for the Magenta and Grey routes through two villages - Tortington and Binsted.
- A27 wrongly described
The single carriageway section of the A27 was wrongly described as starting at Yapton Lane (B2132), instead of 2.4km to the east, in many places. This error favours Grey, Magenta and Amber routes, by making Crimson, Beige or Cyan seem impossible.