Heathrow Airport’s owners can apply to build a third runway after the UK’s Supreme Court threw out an earlier judgement that emission standards being used were out of date.

The UK’s highest court ruled that the less stringent targets used to approve the runway were appropriate at the time.

It clears the way for Heathrow’s consortium of owners that includes Spanish firm Ferrovial and the Qatar Investment Authority to apply for a development order, though commentators said it was still far from certain a new runway would be built.

Emissions targets have been reduced substantially since the original approval, with the UK government only recently vowing to make the country net carbon neutral by 2050.

Boris Johnson famously in 2015 also promised to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop construction of a new runway.

Environmental lobbyists expressed dismay at the Supreme Court decision and promised to fight it at every opportunity including at the public inquiry and the European Court of Human Justice.

Many also question its need given the change in circumstances brought on by COVID-19, a crisis that has brought the air travel business to its knees.

Heathrow itself has said that the envisaged 2028 completion date might be delayed by five years due to the pandemic.

If built, the new runway would handle an additional 700 planes a day at a cost of GBP14bn and add 80mln passengers a year.

A spokesman for Heathrow told the BBC the ruling would be positive for the UK.

“Demand for aviation will recover from Covid-19, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany.”

Airline shares picked up today with British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) up 3% at 162.3p.

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