High Court dismisses application for judicial review of grant of planning permission for Southampton runway expansion

The High Court has dismissed a complaint against Eastleigh Borough Council over its decision to grant planning permission for a runway extension at Southampton Airport.

In Goesa Ltd, R (at the request of) v Eastleigh Borough Council [2022] EWHC 1221, Holgate J. dismissed all five grounds advanced by the Residents’ group.

Permission for the expansion was granted in June 2021, following a lengthy process that included four rounds of public consultation between 2019 and 2021.

Opponents to the development included neighboring local authorities, Southampton City Council and Winchester City Council.

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The High Court initially refused to allow two legal challenges over the 164m runway extension in the autumn of last year.

But one of the claims brought by the Group Opposed to Southampton Airport Expansion Ltd (GOESA) was renewed in November.

GOESA, which is a legal entity created by local residents, argued that:

  • The decision was unlawfully taken in breach of a legitimate expectation not to issue the planning permit until the Secretary of State had ample time to decide whether or not to submit the application and to open a local public inquiry.
  • By not making any assessment of the cumulative effects of GHGs [greenhouse gas] emissions in combination with other projects, defendant counsel breached its obligation under the EIA Regulations and/or failed to take into account a manifestly material consideration.
  • Respondent misinterpreted the policy in NPPF Section 11(d), unlawfully causing it to apply the “tilted scales” in favor of granting permission, but without making the necessary prior finding that the “most important in determining application” were outdated.
  • The defendant unlawfully took into account an unimportant consideration, namely that the refusal of planning permission would result in the loss of the airport.
  • The defendant proceeded on an insufficient basis of evidence before concluding that the airport would operate below its break-even point without expansion.

However, all five grounds were dismissed by the judge in a decision issued on Monday, May 23.

Eastleigh Borough Council Leader Cllr Keith House said: ‘This is welcome news and supports the High Court’s previous decision in October 2021 to reject a judicial review of council’s decision to allow a runway extension This now means the airport can move forward with its plans, saving the airport for the future, generating jobs for our local economy and ensuring strict controls on the total number of passengers to protect our environment.

Leigh Day, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, said it could not confirm whether there would be an appeal at this stage.

Adam Carey