The Court of Appeal’s Heathrow ruling was heralded as “ground-breaking” by environmental groups, but the airport, airlines and trade unions warned expansion is “essential”.
Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, one of the organisations which brought the legal action, claimed a third runway “would have had dire implications for present and future generations”.
He said: “This ruling is an absolutely ground-breaking result for climate justice.
“It’s time for developers and public authorities to be held to account when it comes to the climate impact of their damaging developments.”
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the court decided that the Airports National Policy Statement is “fatally undermined by ignoring climate commitments”.
He went on: “The third runway is already on its knees over costs, noise, air pollution, habitat loss and lack of access, and now Heathrow Ltd has yet another impossibly high hurdle to clear.”
Speaking outside the court, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was concerned about issues such as poor-quality air and noise pollution.
“I’m worried about future generations,” he added.
Gareth Roberts, leader of Richmond Council, described the ruling as “nothing short of a victory” and claimed it leaves the Government’s airports policy “in tatters”.
Hillingdon Council leader Ray Puddifoot expressed hope that the Government will “in the near future announce that Heathrow expansion is off the agenda once and for all”.
John Stewart, who chairs anti-expansion group Hacan, told the PA news agency: “This ruling has killed off the third runway for good.
“Although it invites the Government to review its policy, I suspect that the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson doesn’t want to review the policy and will use this as a way of killing off the third runway.”
A Heathrow spokeswoman said the airport is ready to work with the Government to “fix the issue that the court has raised”, adding that it is “eminently fixable”.
She continued: “Heathrow has taken a lead in getting the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to get to net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord.
“Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of global Britain.
“We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, an industry body representing UK-registered airlines, said the court’s decision was “extremely disappointing” because the “economic prize is enormous if expansion is done right”.
He added: “It is not a question of being pro-aviation or pro-environment.”
Nadine Houghton, national officer of the GMB union, acknowledged that the third runway was “a complicated issue” but insisted “the benefits more than outweigh any risks”.