Like the steady roar of planes coming in to land over West London, the aviation industry keeps droning on about expanding London’s airports. Last week’s reshuffle shows Cameron and Osborne are listening to them too.
Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers, two Ministers with whose opposition to the third runway was well known, have found themselves shunted out of the Transport Department. A Number 10 official sniggered that Greening would "have plenty of time to think about runways as her flight to the next developing country circles the airport yet again." (Which doesn’t even make sense, because why would a plane flying to a developing country be circling at Heathrow? Unless Cameron thinks the UK is a developing country? Anyway, I digress.)
Cameron and Osborne have established an inquiry to look into “the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub”. Lest this loaded question prove anything other than a licence to lay tarmac, they asked the former head of the Confederation of British Industry, Howard Davies, to oversee it. Davies was once a special adviser to the climate change denier Lord Lawson. He had to leave the LSE after he was busted for nodding through some chunky donations from Gaddafi’s son. Davies won’t decide to build a third runway until 2015, which means all three parties get to run on a “no third runway unless the commission tells us to build it” platform at the next election.
Residents needn’t worry though, because Boris Johnson is on the case. He’s set up a rival inquiry, proving that the invisible hand of the free market will ensure competition. The Mayor’s inquiry will report in 2013 and, like the government’s commission, will conclude that we need lots of more runway space, because that’s what it is being asked to do. Given that no one is going to build a runway in the Thames Estuary – his preferred solution – Boris gets to oppose the third runway while making it ever more likely that Sipson and Harmondsworth will be buried under tarmac.
None of this means that the third runway will be built, of course. The strongest argument against it isn’t climate change, it’s that the damned thing has no purpose. There is bags of spare capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, which is why Virgin Atlantic was able to offer new routes between London and Manchester days after losing its West Coast train franchise. Using all that spare capacity would be stupid, of course, because flying causes climate change, makes loads of noise and pollutes the air we breathe. But let’s not forget it’s there.
Manchester Airport has announced plans to concrete over former greenbelt land around Sunbank Lane to make way for a 'World Logistics Hub'. The area is currently home to residential houses and greenfields and also borders onto Cotterill Clough - a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The plans involve the construction of around 43 warehouses and office units of various sizes on land adjacent to the A538, as well as 1,473 carparking spaces, 134 bike parking spaces and a re-landscaped green zone. The plans form part of the wider Airport City Enterprise Zone.
The Airport 'anticipate' that 1800 jobs will be created over a 15 year period. However, a report on the wider Airport City proposals in Autumn 2011 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that many of these job creation projections actually involved displacing pre-existing jobs from elsewhere in Manchester, as firms relocate to take advantage of the cheap business rates on offer. The land around Sunbank Lane was recently taken out of the Greenbelt in the Manchester City Council's 'Core Strategy' which was approved in July 2012.
Many residents say they were not informed or consulted of these plans. Audrey O'Donovan said, "As a resident and chairman of Ringway Parish Council I am appalled at the lack of consultation by Manchester Airport when removing Oak Farm and surrounding area out of the green belt and changing the planning status enabling them to once again encroach on our countryside. All in the name of so called progress. What concerns me is the World Logistics Hub as they have called this latest expansion will expand to the other side of the A538 spreading their operations still further into our very small Parish of Ringway."
The Airport have published an 'informal' consultation document with images of the plans. They say they intend to submit a formal planning application to Manchester City Council at some point in August 2012.
Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport organised a 'Biodiversity Walk' around the affected site in May 2010. Shortly after local activists from Manchester Climate Action blockaded the current World Freight Centre and staged an airside protest around the wheel of Monarch Airline jet against plans to expand the airport and demolish local homes.
As a community activist, informed by her reading of popular education, community activism and radical politics, Cathy McCormack has – for over quarter of a century – witnessed each and every day a ‘war without bullets’ being waged remorselessly against herself and other structurally oppressed people: the poor, the ill, the unemployed, the disabled, the stigmatised, the marginalised and the simply different.
Cathy, from Easterhouse Glasgow and author of ‘The Wee Yellow Butterfly’ exposes the war against the poor in Britain and of how poverty and inequality are linked to climate-change during a series of conversations with other activist and academic experts that are fighting back in the front line of this war and trying to save our planet and its people. One of the conversations here follows a few years of part of Plane Stupid's journey in tackling the war from the runways to the streets to the courts......
Cathy’s first guest is Dan Glass a young anti-climate change activist who was nominated as one of Britain’s most effective green activist and notoriously famous for gluing himself to Gordon Brown. Dan was involved in ‘Plane Stupid’ and So We Stand. Dan exposes the links between poverty and inequalities and talks about the direct action which he and his buddies took to stop co2 emissions at their source which resulted in them being arrested twice and put on trial. He also reveals of how the under-cover policecop Mark Kennedy who infiltrated their organisation resulted in their second conviction being rendered un- safe.………..
On Wednesday 30th June, 15 activists launched Plane Stupid Germany in style as they dropped banners from the town hall of Munich in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The action appealed to the state capital to stop the planned Munich third runway by a referendum.
The Munich airport is the biggest single threat to the climate in Bavaria. One of the activists involved said:
"In deep concern of what we have built in our lives and in deep concern of the world we will leave to future generations, we have decided to follow the way of civil disobedience. Its not acceptable that the protection of property, health and climate-protection written in the Bavarian constitution, is not valid in Bavaria and it's capital when it comes to a third runway."
Recently leaked news showed that the airport has majorly influenced the referendum with one million euros.
There is a demo planned this Friday outside City Hall from 9.30am to protest Boris Johnson's silly airport idea.
Boris Johnson’s plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary spell disaster for our climate. 150 million passengers per year would use the airport, increasing our emissions at alarming rate - we are struggling as it is to meet the weak climate target of reducing our emissions by 80% by 2050, the introduction of new airport will only further hinder our attempts to achieve it.
As if the climate implications are not enough the location of his proposed airport and its cost, £50 billion, are mind boggling. The location would mean the disruption of a fragile ecosystem, that exists in the estuary, including endangering protected species of birds. As well as being in the heart of the convergence of four existing major flight paths used for arrivals and departures, leading to even more congestion in the skies and higher CO2 emissions as planes spend more time circling in the air waiting to land.
Also the proposed site is very near to the sunken SS Richard Montgomery, a munitions ship which contains enough unexploded material to send a metre-high tidal wave hurtling towards the banks of the River Thames.
We cannot allow Boris to proceed with this hugely damaging vanity project - the cost of Boris Island is just too great.
So come and join us to tell the newly re-elected mayor that just because he’s back in office does not mean we’ll let him slip this past us!