Council agrees to continue legal fight against Heathrow third runway

Up to £75,000 could be spent appealing a decision not to allow the Royal Borough’s legal challenge over the third runway at Heathrow.

Last month, judges at the Royal Courts of Justice dismissed a challenge by the council, four more local authorities and other parties to challenge the Government’s decision to support the runway.

At a meeting at Maidenhead Town Hall on Tuesday, councillors were presented with two options on how to proceed: either to continue legal proceedings by way of an appeal or to withdraw and reserve the right to challenge decisions made further down the line.

But council leader Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) warned the vote ‘may become academic’ if the Court of Appeal does not agree to the appeal.

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) told the meeting: “I think it would be bizarre of us, after passing the previous motion [to declare a climate emergency] to then be in support of Heathrow expansion. This is going to have a major effect on the environment.”

Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham) pointed out ‘our already ambitious target of carbon reduction by 2050 would be compromised by a new runway at Heathrow Airport opening 2026’.

In addition to plane pollution he also raised concerns over vehicle movements which would ‘cause a great deal of extra carbon impact’.

But Cllr Geoff Hill (The Borough First, Oldfield) said although he had ‘real concerns’ about Heathrow’s expansion, he took issue with ‘seeking here to commit another £75,000’ to the appeal.

“My other real concern is the amount of money that we’re spending. We’re seeking here to commit another £75,000, we’ve already spent £100,000 on legal fees,” he said.

He added: “My view is, like it or not, the British government will probably get what it wants.

“I actually think it’s becoming a bit of a futile crusade, not because we disagree on it, but because the governments going to do what it wants in terms of what it described as ‘the national interest’.”

“So I just wonder whether we should stop now, spending this money, fighting this legal battle.

“We have other obvious things like adult social care, homeless people, children’s services etcetera where the money could be very well used, because frankly, I think we’re going to lose.”

Cllr Dudley said: “Heathrow will hugely impact our residents in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.”

He added: “We do need to make a decision about whether or not we actually want to be involved in any such appeal process”.

Referencing the climate emergency declared by the council earlier in the evening he said ‘any logical consistency demands that we need to do something about the third runway.’

In response to Cllr Hill’s budget concerns, Cllr Dudley said: “Cllr Hill, don’t worry about us not being able to fund other things, we’ve got reserves which are at record high levels, there’s no decision here tonight about £75,000 that won’t go on adult social care, won’t go to vulnerable children, won’t go to support the homeless.

“We’ll do all of those things and fund the additional legal costs from reserves, so it’s not an either or, they’re not mutually exclusive, we can do all of this.

“So I think we should go with leg A, there’s no certainty here, but if we mean what we’re saying about a climate emergency, we may have no choice but to support this paper.”

All but Cllr Hill and Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and Walthams) voted in favour of the appeal option, while Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle) declared an interest and left the room for the vote.

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