Protests by Plane Stupid and Transition Heathrow in unity against aviation expansion

Early this morning protesters from Plane Stupid and Transition Heathrow scaled the Heathrow Park Inn Hotel and dropped banners saying “Any new runway would be Plane Stupid” and “Runner beans not runways” in order to show resistance to the Davies Commission’s consultation proposing a future runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick.

If Heathrow Airport’s proposal for a third runway went ahead, much of the village of Harmondsworth would be demolished, with the neighbouring villages of Sipson and Harlington also under threat. Over a million people living in London could be affected by long term noise and air pollution caused by this aggressive expansion. Heathrow are already exceeding EU air pollution limits, this is likely to increase not decrease with a new runway.

The Davies’ commission argues that an expanded aviation industry would still allow the possibility of the UK staying within its 2050 climate targets of an 80% reduction of CO2 (1), which is needed to prevent a climate catastrophe. This estimate relies on predicted technological change and the use of bio-fuels. Both are unproven and allow aviation to remain a special case, absolving the industry of any climate responsibility. We find this unacceptable.

Plane Stupid campaigner Charlie Smith said:

“The Davies Commission is a farce, it has not allowed for the possibility that the best option for the country and the planet is to avoid any further aviation expansion and seek investment in alternative means of transport. The Commission has prohibited a real debate about our transport future and as such encourages any future government to expand its aviation infrastructure thus sending us further along the road to climate chaos”

No third runway video competition announced


HACAN (Heathrow Association for Control of Aircraft Noise) and Zac Goldsmith MP have announced today a new video competition against expansion of Heathrow Airport.

The project is called 'No Ifs, No Buts' in reference to David Cameron's promise before the last election to rule out expansion at Heathrow. "Yet within 30 months of taking power he set up a commission to look again at the question of a new runway" the website says. 

We like video competitions and this one has a first prize of £10,000 and celebrity judges including actor Hugh Grant. Tempted? To find out more details and to enter the competition see http://www.no-ifs-no-buts.com/ and follow @videoheathrow

Zac Goldsmith MP said:

“The competition is open to absolutely everyone, and will be judged on the night by a high profile panel, as well as the audience itself. Among the submissions, I’m looking for some really powerful messages that will be taken up on social and conventional media, and ram home the message that Heathrow expansion is not only the wrong solution for our economy, it is politically undeliverable."

He added:

“A green light for Heathrow expansion is effectively a green light for a vast, foreign-owned and taxpayer-subsidised monopoly on one edge of our great city. The Chancellor needs to stop being led by the lobby groups and think the issue through himself.”

HACAN Chair John Stewart said:

“Many people are hugely disappointed that David Cameron has gone back on his promise not to build a new runway at Heathrow. This ‘No ifs; no buts’ competition can highlight that.”

Back to the Heathrow barricades as government get ready for an airport u-turn


Plane Stupid have been back in the news again recently after the interim report on future aviation policy was published. Here is an article one of our members wrote in The Guardian.

Deja vu or political incompetence? The Independent on Sunday has revealed that Tuesday's interim report on the future of the UK's airport expansion policy, chaired by Howard Davies, will set out three options for extra capacity in the south-east, and they all involve the expansion of Heathrow. Like it or not, we're back where we were in 2009 when the Labour government supported Heathrow expansion. But we didn't need it then and we don't need it now.

How have we got here? Over the last few years, since the decision of government to rule out expansion at Heathrow and at the other major airports in the south-east, we have seen a massive corporate lobbying campaign. Heathrow has spent millions of pounds on lobbying for expansion, some of which you may have seen in advertised in newspapers and on the London tube.

All this corporate lobbying has resulted in a hijacking of the debate, convincing the public that we are facing an aviation capacity crisis. This has never been true and is something that Davies is said to be pointing out in his report.

The truth is that Heathrow has long been Europe's biggest hub airport. Already more passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world, and the airport has more flights to the top business destinations than any other in Europe. A study published in April this year by Hacan, which campaigns against noise at Heathrow, showed that nine of the 10 top destinations served by the airport are shorthaul. Plenty of capacity could become available if we moved most of these journeys to alternative and less polluting methods of travel, such as rail on routes from London to Paris and Edinburgh, which are the fifth and sixth most popular destinations.

Additionally, we cannot afford to forget that a third and/or fourth runway at Heathrow would have devastating implications for climate change. There was a warning in 2009 that a third runway would result in 220,000 extra flights a year; in emission terms, this is equivalent to the entire country of Kenya's annual output. Ensuring that the UK meets its target of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 will be impossible if any of the options proposed by Davies are taken up. The transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said on Sunday that the government "haven't ruled anything out yet" but he must take into consideration that any U-turn will create a policy that is mutually incompatible with the Climate Change Act 2008.

There is so much at stake. Anyone living in west London can tell you about the noise pollution. There is also the issue of local communities that have been blighted by this political football for so long now. Zac Goldsmith MP still threatens to resign if there is a U-turn; Boris Johnson is going berserk. The locally embedded protest camp Grow Heathrow, in the village of Sipson in Middlesex which faces full demolition, now finds itself right at the heart of the resistance.

At Plane Stupid HQ, we have been spending the week reminiscing aboutoccupying runways and the houses of parliament, while wiping the dust off our d-Locks. Thousands of climate change protesters are on alert. Here we go again.

Reshuffle has "u-turn" written all over it

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.

Never trust a politician

So, we now know. George Osborne has spoken. He told yesterdays Financial Times: “There is no softening on the question of a third runway at Heathrow."It’s an attempt to scotch the rumours that have resurfaced again big time this weekend that the Government is about to do a U-turn on the third runway at the behest of the Chancellor.

Of course, we don’t know the private thoughts of Mr Osborne about Heathrow. We do know he likes big infrastructure. He keeps telling us that it’s essential for economic growth. That may include a new runway at Heathrow. But he’s been forced to say that the Tories won’t build one. He knows that, if people think they will renege on their promise, Boris wouldn’t be elected as Mayor of London. He knows, too, that Transport Secretary Justine Greening, who has been a vocal and effective opponent of a third runway, would need to resign. And Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith has said he would resign his seat and force a by-election if the Tories changed their mind. A U-turn would also be a gift to Labour leader Ed Milliband now that his party has dropped its support for a third runway.

Deep down, I suspect, George and Ed, and particularly Justine, know that a third runway at Heathrow has become impossible to build. They don’t want to face Plane Stupid on the roof of Parliament again, far less the thousands of people who would lose their homes or the hundreds of thousands under the Heathrow flight path.

Some in the industry, like BAA, seem still to cling to their impossible dream that one day they will get their third runway. This is a big reason for their current campaign for more airport capacity and for the adverts plastered all over the London Underground: “The road to economic recovery isn’t a road – it’s a flight path.”

However, most in business and the aviation industry would settle for a new runway anywhere in the south-east. And this is where Osborne is dangerous. Last year he said in his autumn statement the Government would "explore all options for maintaining the UK's aviation hub status, with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow". And recently David Cameron told big business “I'm not blind to the need to increase airport capacity, particularly in the south-east” before adding pointedly “Gatwick is emerging as a business airport for London, under a new owner competing with Heathrow”.

Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne, CO2 does the same harm to the environment whether the plane comes from Heathrow or Gatwick. Plane Stupid are booking our train tickets for Gatwick. Singles. Returns won’t be necessary until you get serious on the climate science and drop all airport expansion plans.  

BAA go away!


What’s going on behind closed doors? The government’s “sustainable aviation strategy” which was due for publication this week is delayed to the end of the summer, with no reasons given. Could it be something to do with Sir Colin Matthews from BAA and his band of environmental psychopaths bullying the government into dropping its last vestiges of being the greenest government of them all?  

BAA is throwing everything it has at the “sustainable aviation consultation” process to ensure that the result is definitely not sustainable.  

They are running an advertising campaign across London fraudulently declaring the “route to economic recovery is a flight path.” Just in case BAA doesn’t understand basic economics, our economy is in a mess because of high oil prices, bankrupt banks and rising food prices. Building new runways will not sort out the mess that we are in – it will make things far worse.  

Not content to limit itself to a fraudulent advertising campaign, BAA has got its favourite self-interested economic groups and journalists to vomit up reports on how economic growth can only happen with a third runway. Without it, they claim all business will go to Europe where every airport, runway and strip of tarmac will be expanded into an international hub. None of these pundits recognise that across Europe people have been inspired by the protests that stopped Heathrow and are organising themselves in their thousands to stop further destructive airport expansions.  

And one more thought for Sir Colin and his band of environmental psychopaths – you lost the last time and you lost everywhere. You lost in the law courts, you lost in the press, you lost public opinion and you lost at the ballot box. You lost for the simple reason that any reasonable person knows it is wrong to deliberately destroy the future through policies which knowingly worsen the already terrible plight our young people face through climate change.  

So the message to Sir Colin is this - resign. Your pursuit of a failed and immoral business strategy renders you inappropriate to run a powerful corporation. Your policy is to deliberately poison the air for the young people of today and violate their human rights.

Video of Take VAT action at Heathrow airport

Chaotic scenes at Heathrow airport as police chase protesters round the terminal building. By the time they were chucked out - there point had clearly been made. Big ups to You and I Films for this one. Read the full action report here.

Grow Heathrow wins first step in fight to rejuvenate third runway site

Heathrow residents and activists are celebrating today following the adjournment of the court case that was seeking to evict the squatted community garden project 'Grow Heathrow', set up on the site of the defeated third runway.

The case has been adjourned to the Central London County Court after the Deputy District Judge ruled that higher authority was needed to rule on the case.

Transition Heathrow member Jo Rake, 21, said: "We are celebrating todays ruling as a step towards rebuilding the Heathrow communities that were blighted for so long by the threat of airport expansion. The number of people who turned up at court today, from local residents to airport workers and activists, showed the importance of this project for the Heathrow communities, and also the wider campaign for food security. David Cameron talks about building a 'big society', we're already doing it."

Over the past six months, the former Berkeley Nurseries site has been transformed from a derelict space to a thriving community garden and social space, playing host to a range of events, from a banquet and film screenings, to acting as a base for solidarity actions for striking airport workers.

Local MP John McDonnell said: "This inspirational project has not only dramatically improved this derelict site but it has lifted the morale of the whole local community in the campaign against the third runway and in planning a sustainable future for our area. We cannot lose this inititiave and I will do all I can to enable it to continue."

Many of the activists involved in Transition Heathrow have a background of taking direct action with Plane Stupid and don't intend to go without a fight.

Grow Heathrow defiant in face of eviction threat

The squatted community garden in Sipson, Heathrow has been served a court summons for eviction. Don't worry though: we've no intention of leaving.

On the 1st of March this year we reclaimed a neglected plot of land called the Berkeley Nurseries in Sipson on the planned site of the 3rd runway.

For the last six months we've worked with residents to rejuvanate the former-market garden: shifting 30 tonnes of rubbish, growing seasonal food, hosting permaculture workshops and a banquet attended by 80 people as well as supporting the successful No Third Runway campaign.

Grow Heathrow is part of a budding land movement in the UK connecting struggles to take back control of our food production. In building resilient communities to environmental and economic crises we want to defend real alternatives to the systems of false democracy and corporate greed.

We are in negotiations with the landowners for long-term community ownership, and so for the while we ask you to support us in the upcoming struggle by:

Please email info@transitionheathrow.com if you have any skills, ideas or experience to contribute in resisting this threat.

Please forward to your networks and post on your blogs.

With love,

Transition Heathrow

High Court: Heathrow expansion "untenable in law or common sense"

It is a great day to be alive - unless you're BAA or the Government. In one of the most devastating condemnations of Government transport policy ever seen, the High Court has ruled that the case for Heathrow expansion has no economic or environmental basis. The ruling is so damning that the 2003 Air Transport White Paper - the cornerstone of the Government's aviation policy - is now only suitable for lining cat litter trays.

Firstly, Lord Justice Carnwath found that the economic case underestimated the economic impact of climate change - the external cost to society of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The actual cost is three times larger than the figure used to calculate the economic benefit.

Two years ago WWF and transport academic Keith Buchan found that using proper Treasury calculations and doubling the value of climate change used in the Government's calculations turned the £5 billion claimed benefit into a £5 billion deficit (i.e. it cost society £5 billion). Imagine what tripling the value would do!

Having dispatched the economic case, Carnwath turned to climate change. It was ridiculous, he argued, for the Government to ignore its own legislation, i.e. the Climate Change Act 2008. When the Government rewrites aviation policy later this year, it will have to take account of climate change in a real and considered manner. This means that all airport expansion can be challenged on climate change grounds, until the Government or industry can show how having ever more planes in the sky is compatible with reducing CO2 emissions.

Finally he looked at surface access. The Government claimed that you could increase by around 40% the number of people travelling to Heathrow without turning West London into a giant car park and pushing the Picaddilly line beyond capacity. Nonsense, cried the judge, citing evidence from Transport for London which showed very, very clearly that there wasn't going to be anything like enough road or tube space for all these extra people to fit into.

As if that wasn't enough, Carnwath turned his mind to the wider idea of challenging Government policy at public inquiries. It was not enough for the Government to say "this is our policy, so shut up and take it". While some aspects of policy were cut and dry there were some grey areas which the public had the right to challenge. The need for a particular motorway or airport should be open to challenge and debate, and public inquiries were the forum for doing this.

I've read the occasional verdict in my time, and this one is sensational. It's well worth reading through the judge's reasoning, if only to see just how spurious and ill-thought out the Government's case is. For once, I have nothing but praise for the legal system... normal service to resume shortly!