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!

Hoon: "£50k and I'll tarmac Sipson for ya!"

Three cheers to Dispatches for catching buff-Hoon shouting his mouth off about how much (or how little) it costs to buy his support. You know you've crossed the line when the Prince of Custard, Peter Mandleson, goes on Newsnight to call you corrupt (I mean talk about pot... kettle).

So how much do we think Hoon charged BAA for pushing through arguably the most controversial bit of infrastructure since, well, the last Heathrow expansion? BAA and Labour operate a revolving door policy, but still, persuading the Cabinet to ignore over 80% of the responses to a consultation you've already tried to rig tends to be costly.

Now that everyone knows that Hoon is as crooked as a thrupenny bit, it's time to go back to the third runway decision and consider it afresh. Sure, we don't know that Hoon took cash from BAA to influence Government policy, but the man's got form. The man's got form.

Grow Heathrow ready for take off

Beginning our new project on the first day in March was always going to be tricky, but even Spring was on side. For Transition Heathrow's latest project we've gone back to the land, turning a neglected scrap in the heart of the third runway into a thriving market garden for the community.

After the successful site take on the Monday, in which about 20 people secured our new site, we spent an intense week in the sun clearing and cleaning up the mess left behind by previous tenants. The amount of rubbish was monumental, but by the weekend we felt ready to open the gates and welcomed in the community.

The support we've had from the local community, and particularly from those on whose doorsteps we've set up, has been staggering. We posted a wish list of stuff we needed and by the weekend had mostly fulfilled it. From food parcels to blankets, we've been supremely well looked after by our new neighbours.

Over the weekend an incredible mix of people came together and spent two days in the glorious sunshine restoring the greenhouses to their former glory. It's hard to describe just how positive the atmosphere was, especially when people were primarily clearing rubbish. We had kids painting tyres to grow potatoes in; mass raking to clear up the broken glass and bender building to establish a beautiful shelter for our front gate. By the end of the weekend we were all exhausted, but exhilarated, by the amount we'd managed to achieve in such a short space of time.

This project is definitely a good antidote for anyone feeling overwhelmed post-Copenhagen, or depressed after reading 1,000 comments on the Guardian dissing climate science. Making a tangible difference in a community that has been blighted for so many years by the overhanging threat of airport expansion is wonderfully empowering, and there's plenty for people to do to get their hands dirty.

As a good friend of ours said about the project, "people should stop talking about the resistance, and come here and live it instead."

For more information email info@transitionheathrow.com or if you want to come and join us for a day's work call the site phone on 07890751568.

Transition Heathrow turns wasteland into community garden

Community activists from the group Transition Heathrow have taken over an abandoned market garden threatened by the third runway. Around lunchtime, 20 people "swooped" on the land in Sipson, one of the villages due for demolition if the third runway at Heathrow goes ahead.

More photos on Transition Heathrow's Flickr stream.

After securing the site, the group immediately informed their new neighbours and local residents of their intention to reopen the old market garden for the benefit of the local community. The 'Grow Heathrow' project aims to encourage and support locally grown produce in an area that once had some of the most fertile soils in Britain.

Transition Heathrow has launched the project to highlight the need for a community controlled food supply in order to remain resilient to the impacts of peak oil and climate change. It intends to use the old market garden not only for growing, but also for activities such as bike workshops, clothes making, solidarity support for local workers and direct action workshops for people trying to stop the third runway.

Transition Heathrow member and local resident Joe Rake, described the events of the day. "Around lunchtime, a group of us walked onto the site. Once we had secured the gate, we set about telling local residents why we were there and inviting them to join in. We also had to start tidying up as it appeared to have been used for scrapping cars. Since the last tenants were evicted, the site has attracted unsavoury characters, so we wanted to restart the market garden for the good of the local community."

Many of those involved in the 'swoop' see today's action as a positive way of resisting the third runway whilst building an alternative community solution in its place. Heathrow resident Amy Summer said "We've been fighting the threat of the third runway for years, and its blighted our community. This kind of action not only helps stop expansion but also helps regenerate the area, providing local skills, green jobs and organic produce instead."

"This form of direct action is just as important as sitting on a runway, blockading the bulldozers or striking for more green jobs. There's no point in growing your own veg if it's going to be covered in tarmac by BAA. At the same time there's no point in community resistance if there's no community left to defend. We have to do both," she added.

Grimshaw calls cops on leafleting activists

Each morning this week activists have been visiting Grimshaws, the firm of architects who accepted the contract to design a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The firm designed the Eden Project and is ultra keen to be seen as green, but saw red when a handful of Workers Climate Action activists started giving out leaflets to their workers. Cue an amusing run-in with the old Bill.

Since it became public they had been awarded the contract, Grimshaws has become a target for those opposing the third runway. WCA has focused on explaining to Grimshaws workers why people oppose the company's involvement. Their message couldn’t be more reasonable: suggesting that Grimshaw workers should have a democratic discussion about the company’s position on the 3rd runway; highlighting the environmental unsustainability of such projects and stressing that their continued employment doesn’t depend on Grimshaws winning such polluting projects.

Despite Grimsaws’ protestations of openness, it seems there's only so much open debate they can handle before calling in the law. The Metropolitan Police turned up yesterday morning to confront the handful of leafleters. Leafleting is, of course, completely legal. Plane Stupid spoke to one WCA activist, who described what happened:

"This was another example of zealous and stupid policing we've come to expect from the Met. After asking me what I was doing, to which to answer was rather obvious, the officer proceeded to inform me that it was illegal for me to flyer and my actions were in 'breach of peace'. [Not true: see Redmon-Bate v DPP - Ed.] After explain that this was my democratic right, they attempted to get my details and when I refused, they decided I must be a real threat and should be searched.

"I questioned the legality of their position and under what section I was searched. 'Are you a lawyer?' one asked. 'No,' I replied. 'A journalist?' 'Why do I look like one?' 'Yes.' Clearly Islington cops are more used to humiliating young people who don't know their rights than with people who understand what they can and can't do.

"The cops eventually decided that I was being searched under Section 1 of PACE. But even after Kingsnorth and the G20 protests in London the police still don’t know what their powers are. They not only took my details of my ID cards [unlawful - police only have the power to search for contraband linked to the crime they suspect you of, such as drugs or weapons (and they must specify which at the time of search) and not to find out who you are - Ed.], but also attempted to take my IMEI number.

"When I again informed them this was totally illegal, the searching officer asked me why I had two phones. After seriously contemplating making a pithy comment, I decided to defuse the situation, asking if they'd seen the Arsenal game the night before. Such banter continued until they, unsurprisingly, didn't find anything and left me to continue flyering.

"This sounds like just another activist sob story - boo hoo, nasty cops. But the point is that we are clearly starting to create divisions between management and the workers; while management are rattled enough to call the police, many of the workers seem perfectly happy to engage with us."

Grimshaws targetted for involvement in Heathrow third runway

Grimshaws, the architects firm which portrays itself as greener than green, the people who designed the Eden Project, were appointed late last year as architects for the third runway at Heathrow. No wonder three young men blacked-out their glass-fronted offices on Clerkenwell Road with tar.

Grimshaws thought the most sensible thing to do on the one year anniversary of the Government giving the go-ahead to the third runway was to have a high-level meeting with BAA. Imagine their surprise when they found their six-metre plate glass windows entirely blacked out. Not an auspicious start.

If Grimshaws thought this was just another job, then they've bitten off more than they can chew. The suave, award-winning Sir Nicholas Grimshaw has seriously underestimated the determination of thousands of people to stop the third runway ever being built. Actions like this are going to become common place as people recognise that our Government is not doing enough and start taking action themselves.

But this is not just a message to Grimshaws. It is to any firm that bids for work on the third runway. Heathrow's expansion is a poisoned chalice. Just leave it alone.

P.s. the image above is, of course, a cleverly constructed metaphor. See the tar pit. See the elephant, which is representing Grimshaws. See it struggling in the tar. There's an astute political message in there somewhere.

Residents fighting expansion at Manchester and Heathrow airports join forces

Residents who live on Hasty Lane at the edge of Manchester Airport are preparing to twin with Sipson at Heathrow. Campaigners will organise a live video link-up with residents near Heathrow airport, who would lose their homes if a third runway were built.

Manchest Airport has proposed expanding their freight terminal, which would demolish homes and a large section of the historic Hasty Lane. Hasty Lane residents aren't taking this threat to their community lying down, and have launched Adopt a Resident, which links local residents with direct action campaigners who will help them resist the demolition of their homes and acres of greenbelt land.

Last November Manchester City Council announced its climate change action plan. Despite owning the majority of Manchester Airports Group (which also owns Nottingham East Midlands, Humberside and Bournemouth airports) their supposedly visionary strategy ignored emissions from planes at Manchester Airport . The next day the Council Planning Committee approved plans to bulldoze people's homes on Hasty Lane.

Hasty Lane resident Peter Johnson said: "Together with Sipson residents, we are going to fight these irresponsible and unnecessary plans. Our local councillors all opposed the plans, but they were overruled. The council has let us down, but we’re not going to give up that easily."

Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport spokesperson Sian Jones said: "The residents aren't alone in this - climate justice campaigners from across Manchester and the country are backing them all the way." More power to their elbow!

CCC hides killing blow behind polite veneer

Don't believe what you're reading in most of today's papers. The Committee on Climate Change's report into aviation and CO2 targets is clear that we can't expand all the airports and meet the Government's greenhouse gas emission targets. But instead of spelling it out, they've chosen to present the Government with an impossible choice: cancel Heathrow or condemn millions to fuel poverty.

The CCC explained that if biofuels work, if efficiency suddenly starts increasing, if other sectors reduce their emissions by 90%, then we can have some airport expansion. Not only is that a lot of ifs, but it's also a lot less expansion than was envisaged. Gone is the 200% increase in passenger numbers, replaced by a somewhat more sedate (but still delusional) 60% hike. This means that it's regional airports versus Heathrow in the fight to expand, because once we hit 60%, forget it.

But even if the industry suddenly starts making greener planes, other sectors are being asked to make 90% reductions to cover aviation's shortfall. This is a recipe for big increases in fuel bills, which has the privatised energy monopolists rubbing their hands in glee. This is a recipe for inequity: poorer people spend more of their income on heating than transport, while richer people spend more on transport than energy.

The CCC's vision of less airport expansion in return for more fuel poverty is not likely to win many votes. No Government with half a mind would think making the poor pay through the nose for the excesses of the wealthy would make a solid manifesto commitment (what about the Tories? - Ed.). In the cold hard world of realpolitick, airport expansion will be reigned in, whether O'Leary likes it or not.

Of course to the army of uninformed hacks out there (step forward Roger Harrabin of the BBC) this report gave the green light (in every sense of the word) to Heathrow expansion. Sadly that says more about the quality of journalism than climate change policy.

Transport Select Committee supports Heathrow expansion; film at eleven

We shouldn't really be surprised that the Transport Select Committee has decided that expansion at Heathrow must go ahead. It is, after all, made up of a rag-tag bunch of industry apologists who go out of their way to promote their pet projects.

It counts David Wiltshire, the only local MP to support Heathrow expansion, as one of its members, but he'll be standing down after because he's being investigated for fraud. It's most notable members are a mad Unionist from Northern Ireland who thinks climate change is a republican plot to re-introduce Popery and Graham Stringer, the MP for Manchester Airport.

But never mind their prejudices: let's look at what they say. Their main point seems to be that aviation is getting a hard time. "Aviation" the Committee says, "should be treated equitably in climate change policy - it should not be demonised or assigned symbolic value beyond its true impacts".

I'd agree with that. Aviation is 13% of our climate impact, and instead of making it reduce its emissions, the Government would rather other sectors make bigger cuts. Figures of 90% are being bandied about, and energy is the current favourite to make the reductions. This is a fuel poverty nightmare: poor people suffering rising heating bills to preserve the right of rich people to fly.

The Committee, like most of the Cabinet, already thinks aviation has some symbolic value which must be preserved at all costs. This ideological affection for flying needs to be borught down to earth with a bang. Treating aviation equitably means making it clean up after itself, not forcing the rest of us to subsidise flying and while other sectors pick up the pieces.