Legal Business Blogs

BLP and Pinsents advise Heathrow as government approves plans for third runway

Pinsent Masons and Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) have advised Heathrow Airport on the planning process up to the government’s decision yesterday (25 October) to approve a third runway, with more legal advisers likely to be appointed as the scheme is taken forward in the form of a national policy statement (NPS) for consultation.

Pinsents, which has a place on Heathrow’s panel, advised the airport on its plans with a team led by head of infrastructure planning and government affairs Robbie Owen. BLP confirmed it has also advised the airport’s in-house team.

Meanwhile the government has appointed former senior president of tribunals Sir Jeremy Sullivan to oversee the process of the NPS on aviation, covering the Heathrow runway. The process will take one year and will be subject to a vote of parliament.

In addition, there are likely to be several legal challenges to the decision, including a joint legal action already mounted by Greenpeace UK alongside Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Winsor and Maidenhead councils.

Greenpeace UK and the councils are jointly instructing Kate Harrison of Harrison Grant Solicitors, specialists in public, environmental and planning law and human rights. In 2010, the campaigners worked together to successfully overturn the Labour governments backing for a third runway in the High Court.

Commenting on the government’s decision, Liz Jenkins, an infrastructure partner at Clyde & Co said the announcement was a ‘false dawn.’

‘Even if the House of Commons does back [Heathrow] then there will still be a number of legal hurdles to overcome before any shovels can break ground. Apart from the political opposition, there will be opposition from activist local residents, local authorities and environmentalists on a host of legal, planning and regulatory issues, such as noise and emissions.’

Speaking to Legal Business in 2014, Heathrow’s legal chief Carol Hui said: ‘The political aspects of this involve local community engagement, master planning, designing and environmental issues. It also concerns local residents if there are issues of noise and blight. We listen to people.’

‘We always have to work to make our case and help people see expanding Heathrow is the answer to connecting the UK to growth so we don’t fall behind our competitors in Europe and increasingly emerging airports like Dubai and Doha. We have to make our case effectively.’

Heathrow has a team of around 30 in-house lawyers and typically instructs Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for finance and corporate, Allen & Overy (A&O) on financing for lenders, Herbert Smith Freehills for litigation, Eversheds for employment and Berwin Leighton Paisner for planning.

A&O, Hogan Lovells and Freshfields led on Heathrow’s final airport disposal in 2014 as Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports were sold to a consortium formed by Ferrovial and Macquarie for £1.05bn.