LONDON (Reuters) - The expansion of London's Heathrow Airport moved a step closer on Wednesday when a High Court judge rejected legal challenges from environmental campaigners opposed to the building of a third runway.
British judge Gary Hickinbottom told the court he did not accept the arguments made by environmental campaigners and said the government's transport minister did not act unlawfully when he approved the expansion of Europe's biggest airport.
The decision to expand Heathrow, owned by Spain's Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority, China Investment Corporation and other investment companies, follows almost half a century of indecision on how and where to add new airport capacity in densely populated southeast England.
Under the current £14 billion plan, which was approved by parliament last year, building work on the third runway should begin in 2021 before it becomes operational in 2026.
"The court held that none of the climate change grounds was arguable," a court summary of the judgement said.
Environmental groups and local boroughs have complained about the impact a new runway would have on air quality, climate change and noise levels. The campaigners can still appeal the ruling.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)