Lawyers on behalf of Hillingdon Council have given a stark warning to the government in a letter calling on them to withdraw the Heathrow decision within 14 days.

The letter was sent on Thursday (November 17) to the Secretary of State for Transport on behalf of a coalition of four local authorities and environmental campaign group Greenpeace UK.

Hillingdon Council has vowed to take legal action against the government after ministers backed the expansion of Heathrow Airport to include a third runway .

The 33-page letter, penned by solicitors Harrison Grant, argues the government's decision is unlawful because of the impacts on air quality and noise pollution.

'It is unbelievable'

Property compensation zones drawn up by Heathrow Airport. Pic: Heathrow Airport

Leader of Hillingdon Council, Ray Puddifoot , said: “I was in the High Court in March 2010 at the last JR [judicial review] on Heathrow expansion when the judge referred to the third runway plans as “untenable in law and common sense”.

“Six years on it is unbelievable that the current government are promoting an expansion that is still untenable in law and common sense and it is simply not acceptable in this country.

“This is the first round of this legal challenge and whilst we should win by a knockout in the first round we are prepared for a long fight if necessary.”

The letter says that if the government does not reverse its decision, the coalition will start judicial review proceedings at the High Court to prevent the third runway being built.

It has been sent on behalf of Hillingdon and Greenpeace alongside Richmond , Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead councils

Judge ruled on expansion in 2010

A CGI of an expanded Heathrow

In 2010, a High Court battle was won by anti-expansion campaigners when the judge ruled that the government's consultation did not take account of up to date information on economic benefits and climate change.

But the judicial review did not completely rule out the option to expand Heathrow, and on October 25 this year Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet announced they were backing the expansion of the west London transport hub.

Pro-expansion group, Back Heathrow, says the legal challenge is a waste of money, and that the third runway is supported by a “majority of local residents”.

'Local taxpayers should be shocked'

A Back Heathrow spokesman said: “Local taxpayers will be shocked that their money is being squandered on lawyer's fees instead of it being spent where it is supposed to be – on vital public services.

“Heathrow expansion is supported by a majority of local residents living near the airport, trade unions, business groups, the independent Airports Commission, most MPs from across all major parties and now the British Government.”

According to the Department for Transport the new runway could bring economic benefits to the country of up to £61billion and create 77,000 local jobs over the next 14 years.

However, according to the HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) between 620,000 and 920,000 people will be disturbed by the noise from a new runway.

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Around 783 homes would be demolished to build the new runway, and the Airports Commission said the government would find it “challenging” to meet air pollution limits if a third runway is built.”

'This is reckless and unlawful'

The executive director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, said: “It's clear that the government has greenlighted the third runway despite having no solution to the huge air and noise pollution problems it will cause.

“This is reckless and unlawful. Expanding Heathrow will heap more misery on hundreds of thousands of Londoners already breathing illegal air pollution, expose more people to aircraft nose, and drive carbon emissions through the roof.

“It will make it practically impossible for the government to comply with air pollution laws and court rulings.”

Mr Sauven added: “If ministers are hell bent on disregarding the laws that protect our health, a courtroom is where we're going to hold them to account.”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We believe the Heathrow Northwest Runway can be delivered in line with our obligations on air quality, with a suitable package of policy and mitigation measures.

“We are unable to comment on the detail of any legal proceedings but we are confident that our process for decision-making is robust and will strongly defend any challenge.”

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