Letter of solidarity to the Crown Prosecution Service

Plane Stupid would like to thank all of the signatories to the letter below, sent to the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday 9th of October, 2015. 

We are deeply grateful and appreciative of all the support we have received - from the signatories, from Heathrow’s local residents and from other groups campaigning for David Cameron to keep his promise.  No ifs, no buts, no new runways, anywhere.  

Open Letter to the Crown Prosecution Service

In July a group of climate activists with anti airport expansion group Plane Stupid took peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport. They have been charged with aggravated trespass and being in a restricted area of the airport without permission.

The Plane Stupid action, which came just weeks after the recommendation by the Airports Commission to build a new runway at Heathrow, highlighted the importance of considering climate change in the context of any discussion about the future of the aviation industry.

The science tells us that deep cuts are required from existing levels of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change, but successive governments, including the present one, have failed to act appropriately. A new runway, and the many thousands of extra flights it would allow, would make the necessary cuts far more difficult to achieve.

Against this background, with the failure of the democratic process, the actions of the Plane Stupid activists were reasonable, justifiable and honorable. We, the undersigned, call upon the CPS to drop the charges against the activists in the public interest – we should be congratulating them for the defending the planet, not prosecuting them.


John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor)

Natalie Bennett (Leader of the Greens)

Caroline Lucas MP

Michael Mansfield QC (Human rights lawyer)

Rajiv Menon QC (Human rights lawyer)

Nnimmo Bassey (Leading African environmentalist, Winner of Right Livelihood Award)

Bill McKibben (Founder of 350.org)

Craig Bennett  (CEO, Friends of the Earth)

John Sauven (Executive Director of Greenpeace UK)

John Stewart (Chair of HACAN)

Suzanne Jeffrey (Vice Chair of Campaign against Climate Change)

Dr Damien Short (Human rights advocate and lecturer)

George Monbiot (Writer) 


UPDATE: this letter was referred to in this Guardian article on Friday 9 October 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/09/shadow-chancellor-calls-for-charges-against-heathrow-activists-to-be-dropped

The Heathrow 13 – Case Management Hearing 19th August 2015


Yesterday, we - the 13 Plane Stupid activists who occupied the northern runway of Heathrow Airport for over six hours on 13th July - had our hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates Court. All 13 of us pleaded not guilty to both charges brought against each of us, and are now set to have a full two week trial, commencing on Monday 18th January 2016.

We arrived at court in the morning to be greeted by a whole array of media journalists, as well as a sea of supporters, including local residents and campaigners from grassroots groups and NGO’s, elected representatives of political parties, and even a handful of polar bears! We would all like to sincerely thank all those who were able to come to the court to support us, as well as those who have shown their support from afar. It’s touching to feel so supported by so many people, for taking the action that we have. Thank you all; your invaluable support means so much.

Needless to say, starting the day with polar bears, friends and supporters fuelled us with hope and joy for the day to come. We were always aware that this hearing was going to be relatively simple; mainly an opportunity for us defendants to receive the prosecution’s case against us (although this didn’t actually materialize in the end) and for each of us to enter our pleas. And our amazing lawyers from Bindman’s and Hodge, Jones & Allen walked us though the process and made sure we were supported thought the day.


Last time this runway was defeated, climate change was at the core of the argument. Local campaigns such as HACAN, Stop Heathrow Expansion and NOTAG have been fighting aviation expansion for years and, whilst winning some concessions, Heathrow continues to lie to the public, and the Government continues to ignore climate change. But climate change won’t wait for an unwilling political system to act.

Any kind of airport expansion in the UK will make it impossible for the UK to meet its legally binding target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% (from 1990 levels) by 2050. It’s really that simple. In fact, the aviation industry is the only carbon intensive industry in the UK that is effectively being given a license to pollute.  Furthermore, the ‘need’ for airport expansion is being driven by the wealthy minority (10-15%) of UK citizens who are responsible for booking the vast majority (70%) of flights in the UK, mainly to short-haul destinations that could easily be reached by train. Heathrow continues to lie about the economic benefits, and underplays the real cost to the public and climate that airpot expansion will have.

 It’s reassuring to know that the amount of time the court has given us will allow us to adequately put forward our case, and that the overwhelming support from both inside the court room, outside the court and in the general media, shows that people agree with us and feel it’s important for the issues to be heard.

Social and regular media this week has been awash with our message that climate change must be at the forefront of the debate around airport expansion and if it takes its rightful place as the key issue, it rules out expansion. #Heathrow13 shows just a pocket of this support from all over the country; this is not just a local issue even though some of the activists involved are local residents.

I am filled with a lot of hope for the future; the support we have been shown is truly heart warming, from letters from parents to local residents and fellow activists. The only way for this campaign is up, but we can’t fight climate change alone. The Government needs to be shown our true power, so please continue to support Plane Stupid, HACAN, Stop Heathrow Expansion, Grow Heathrow, Gatwick Obviously Not!, Reclaim The Power, and all the other groups and organisations fighting airport expansion. Together we can stop this! We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. No If’s, No Buts, No Third Runway… and we mean it!

Cameron Kaye



Heathrow activists plead not guilty


From Press Release:

Today at Uxbridge Magistrates Court, the 13 climate change activists who blocked a runway at Heathrow airport pleaded not guilty. They are charged with aggravated trespass and entering a security restricted area of an aerodrome, forcing flights to be delayed and cancelled. The defendants will argue in court that the runway occupation was necessary and justifiable. If aviation growth continues unchecked, by 2037 the  industry will be responsible for all of the carbon that the UK can safely emit.[1] Failure to prevent climate change will see at least one billion people suffer water shortages, 40% of species made extinct and sea level rises threatening London by the end of the century.[2]

Defendant Ella Gilbert, 22, said:

"We didn't want to do this, but we had to. If the government won't prevent catastrophic climate change, ordinary citizens have to step up; you can't reduce carbon emissions and build more runways, it's plane stupid. There is already more than enough aviation capacity for ordinary people who take their one holiday abroad a year. Airport expansion is for the 15% of wealthy frequent flyers who take 70% of our flights.[3] A broad movement is again uniting to make airport expansion impossible, and we're in it for the long haul!"

The proposed start date for the trial is 18 January and it is estimated to last 2 weeks.

Plane Stupid Press Statement:

In the early hours of Monday 13th July, 13 of us took peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport. Two weeks before our action took place, the Airports Commission issued a recommendation to build a new runway at Heathrow Airport. Some of us are local residents, and the existing air traffic from Heathrow is already having a hugely negative impact on the local community by way of noise & air pollution and blight on the area.

Last year more than half the UK population didn't fly. Airport expansion in the UK is being driven by a minority of wealthy frequent flyers who are booking the vast majority of flights in the UK. But the long term negative impacts of airport expansion will mean everybody pays the price.

Scientific evidence is telling us that if we are serious about tackling climate change, and keeping within the safe 2 degree global temperature rise, we need to be drastically reducing our carbon emissions. But our government is clearly failing to act responsibly.

Building any new runway in the UK is simply not compatible with reducing carbon emissions at this critical time, and will make it impossible to meet our legally binding commitments, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008.

It is critically important that climate change is prominent in the context of any discussion about the future of the aviation industry. Against this background, and the failure of democratic processes, we believe our actions were reasonable, justifiable and necessary.

Previous press releases:
July 14: http://news.met.police.uk/news/thirteen-charged-following-protest-123389
July 13: http://planestupid.com/blogs/2015/07/13/plane-stupid-activists-heathrow-...


Page 5 of Growth Scenarios for EU & UK Aviation: contradictions with climate policy, Summary of research by Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research for Friends of the Earth Trust, Drs Alice Bows, Paul Upham, Kevin Anderson, The University of Manchester, 16 April 2005, http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/aviation_tyndall_summ...

Page 5 of Stern Review. (2006). Part II: Impacts of climate change on growth and development. Stern, Nicholas, HM Treasury. London. October 2006. http://www.wwf.se/source.php/1169157/Stern%20Report_Exec%20Summary.pdf

Based on passenger survey data: Table ATT0601, Public experience of and attitudes towards air travel, DfT Statistical release, July 2014. Analysis by afreeride.org

Further statistics with sources are available at afreeride.org/about


Support the Plane Stupid climate activists in court on 19 August!

Last month activists staged a peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport – less than a fortnight after the Airports Commission recommended a third runway at Heathrow. The action itself involved occupying the northern runway and erecting a tripod and fencing which the activists locked onto. A polar bear climbed onto the tripod. The action stopped some flights and saved greenhouse gas emissions.


The science tells us that deep cuts are required from existing levels of emissions to tackle climate change, but successive governments have failed to respond. Direct action, therefore, is our only hope of securing a decent future for children everywhere. A new runway, and the hundreds of thousands of extra flights it would allow, would make the necessary cuts far more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. In addition, Heathrow hugely contributes to illegal levels of air, and noise pollution, which have massive impacts on health for people living near the airport and for Londoners generally.


For defending the planet and human health, the activists have been charged with aggravated trespass and being in a restricted area of the airport without permission. If you want to show them your solidarity, please support them at their first court hearing on Wednesday 19 August 2015, at Uxbridge Magistrates Court (nearest tube: Uxbridge, on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines). A gathering is taking place outside the court from 8.30am. 

For more updates, see https://www.facebook.com/events/480531532112107/


The full address for the court is:


The Court House
Hare field Road


The court hearing will probably last until at least lunchtime.  

Plane Stupid activists on Heathrow runway in climate protest

From Press Release:

12 climate change activists from anti airport expansion direct action group, Plane Stupid, got onto the north runway at 03:30am this morning at Heathrow Airport by cutting through a fence, in a peaceful protest against proposals to build a new runway.  

The protestors say that going ahead with the recent Airports Commission recommendation that a third runway should be built at Heathrow will make it impossible for the UK to meet its climate change targets.  

The skies above Heathrow are already the busiest in the world, and demand for flights is driven by air fares that are kept artificially low by generous tax exemptions. The activists say that if the aviation industry paid more of its environmental costs then there would be no pressing need for a new runway.

Nine of the top ten most popular routes out of Heathrow are short haul[1], including destinations such as Paris, Manchester and Edinburgh which all have existing rail alternatives.  

Ella Gilbert, an activist from Plane Stupid who is on the runway, said:  

“Building more runways goes against everything we're being told by scientists and experts on climate change. This would massively increase carbon emissions exactly when we need to massively reduce them, that’s why we’re here.  

We want to say sorry to anyone whose day we’ve ruined, and we’re not saying that everybody who wants to fly is a bad person. It's those who fly frequently and unnecessarily who are driving the need for expansion, and we cannot keep ignoring the terrifying consequences of flying like there’s no tomorrow.  

No ifs, no buts, no third runway. And we mean it.”

Airports Commission backs Heathrow 3rd runway


Plane Stupid were very disappointed to hear the announcement from Sir Howard Davies this week that the Airports Commission unanimously backs a third runway at Heathrow. 

The worst part is that Sir Howard seems to have completely fudged the climate change implications.

Here's a reminder why airport expansion is a terrible idea:

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.