Last update:

Heathrow Third Runway Airport Expansion, UK

Many local and national groups had been campaigning since 2002 against the Heathrow airport expansion.


Although there had been early signs of the proposal from 1997, the project of Heathrow expansion became official in December 2003, when the then British transport secretary, Alistair Darling, backed a third runway at Heathrow in the aviation white paper. That 2003 Air Transport White Paper asserted that there was a powerful economic imperative for an additional runway, with only the provisos that conditions relating to air quality, noise and improving surface access should be met.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Heathrow Third Runway Airport Expansion, UK
Country:United Kingdom
State or province:London Borough of Hillingdon
Location of conflict:London
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Transport Services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The new runway was expected to open and immediately increase flights to 605,000 by 2020 and 720,000 by 2030 - up from 480,000 in 2009.

See more
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:BAA - now called Heathrow Airport
Relevant government actors:British government, Hillingdon Council, Hounslow Council
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:No Third Runway Action Group, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, ClearSkies (usually found as HACAN ClearSkies), Friends of the Earth England UK, Heathrow Climate Camp, Plane Stupid, Airportwatch, New Economics Foundation, The Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Greenpeace UK, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Enoughs enough, World Development Movement, The Campaign to protect rural England, The Aviation Environment Federation, The Campaign for Better Transport, WWF UK
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
environmental activists
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Climate camps
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Not to build the third runway.
- More support to sustainable transport.
- A ‘better not bigger’ Heathrow would work for both business and the environment.
- High-speed rail has a role to play.
- Video-conferencing has an important role to play.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The coalition brought the British government before the High Court due to the expansion project and the judge found that the Government’s decision in 2009 to give BAA the green light for the third runway was flawed. He ruled that it did not take into account the most recent evidence on climate change and economics because it was based on the 2003 Air Transport White Paper.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Climate Change Act 2008 (c 27)

Directive 2008/101/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community:
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Super-interesting report from HACAN about the story of how the campaign to stop the third runway at Heathrow was won:
[click to view]

Website Plane stupid:
[click to view]

Newspaper article: The new face of activism. The Guardian.
[click to view]

Website with lots of info from Airportwatch: good reasons
[click to view]

Wikipedia article: Expansion of London Heathrow Airport:
[click to view]

Newspaper article. BBC. Q&A. A third runway at Heathrow:
[click to view]

Web from greenpeace UK: Heathrow third runway cancelled: we won!:
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Youtube videos from the 2007 climate camp:
[click to view]

Video about the building of the climate camp:
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Amaranta Herrero
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:69
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.