Greenpeace Heathrow campaign takes to the road

A silver Airstream ‘campaign plane’ embarked on a month-long tour of London and the Thames Valley yesterday morning to record the voices of people opposed to expansion at Heathrow. The trailer tour will land across the capital as the government prepares to launch a consultation into plans for a third runway at the airport.

Thousands of Londoners’ voices will be collected during the tour and computer-digitised then blared through loud-speakers at representatives of the aviation industry and government – reversing the noise experienced daily by millions of people living under Heathrow’s flightpaths.

Flights of fancy

Call me a cynic, but I'm willing to bet the upcoming consultations on expanding Heathrow airport don't halt the government's madcap plans to lay tarmac all over west London. It's not that I don't trust the public to make the "right" decision; more that whenever the aviation industry asks the questions it gets the result it wanted, even if it contradicts every other survey.

Pro-expansion lobby group Future Heathrow recently published a Populus survey which shows surprising support for Heathrow expansion. They polled 1,000 residents from the west London boroughs that comprise the 2M group, and discovered 56% supported ending runway alternation (switching the runway used for take-offs at 3pm, to give locals respite from aircraft noise). This contradicted last year's ICM poll by the Mayor of London, which found only 26% supported ending alternation. Begging the question: why did the industry survey get the results it did?

BAA - another one bites the dust

Will the last one to leave BAA please turn out the lights? Just over five weeks after joining, BAA's troubleshooter - remit: "to put passengers’ interests first" - has left the company.

It's almost getting too easy to mock the struggling airport operator at the moment. They're already under investigation for being so broke that the Competition Commission is concerned that their finances will impact upon passengers and airlines.

Since June, Tony Douglas has stepping down as chief executive of Heathrow, Mike Clasper stepped down as chief executive along with Marcus Agius, the chairman, Margaret Ewing, finance director, and Tony Ward, who was in charge of security.

Minister hides Heathrow noise report

Jim Fitzpatrick's hidden report

Rising noise levels are causing massive discomfort to people living under Heathrow's flightpaths, according to a leaked report which Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has been sitting on.

The report, Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England (ANASE) was ordered six years ago but kept under wraps since the DfT saw a draft in July. In a damming blow for proponents of the third runway, it has challenged the current measure of noise-related discomfort (57decibels), arguing that "significant annoyance" occurs at 50db levels.

Camp for Climate Action - 1,727 stop and searches

Camp for Climate Action

Anyone visiting the Camp for Climate Action last month might be forgiven for calling the policing a little 'over the top'.

Called to account by the Green Party's Jenny Jones, Sir Ian Blair, head honcho of the Metropolitan Police, wrote a letter which manages to avoid answering any of the difficult questions about police brutality, unlawful detention, or just why 'Operation Hargood' cost £7 million.

He does, however, reveal that the total number of searches during the week was 1,727, of which 230 were conducted under anti-terrorism legislation. Quite what the unlucky 13% were up to that made them so specially terror-istic remains to be seen, as does whether those frisked by over-eager Bobbies felt it was "entirely reasonable" to use such legislation against peaceful protesters...

Angry Heathrow residents disrupt Minister's speech

Londoners facing house demolitions and increased noise from government plans for expansion of Heathrow took direct action against the plans for the first time. They stormed the stage at an aviation industry conference and disrupted an address being made by the Transport Minister, Douglas Alexander.

The residents from the West London villages of Sipson and Harmondsworth joined environmental activists from climate action group, Plane Stupid, and breached security at Chatham House. Some unfurled a banner reading, "No Third Runway" whilst another went nose-to-nose with the Minister in front of the conference delegates. Other residents with banners demonstrated outside the conference centre.

Local resident Dr John Hunt from Hounslow who went head-to-head with Alexander on the stage, said, "For decades the government has betrayed us with a catalogue of broken promises. In the 80s we were told Terminal 4 would be the last expansion, then in the 90s we were told Terminal 5 would be the end. Now we’re facing yet more noise and more concrete, and this time they want to wipe our entire community off the map. The time for gentle persuasion is over. Douglas Alexander is warned: the fight back has begun."

He added, " We’re glad to be joined by our eco-warrior friends from Plane Stupid. They’ve done this kind of thing before and have been helpful with their direct action training over recent weeks. I think it’s safe to say there’s more of this to come."

Plane Stupid shot into the headlines with their blockade of an airport runway at Nottingham East Midlands short haul airport in September. The group have also occupied BAA and Easyjet offices in recent months, and organised November’s national day of action against short haul flights.

Plane Stupid’s Richard George said, "Whist Ministers like Douglas Alexander preach about action to stop climate change they’re concreting over local democratic opposition to new runways with their plans to cater for unnecessary and climate-wrecking short haul flights. It’s not surprising that having failed though conventional protest, the residents have decided to up the ante."

Protestors take direct action to blockade BAA Headquarters

Environmental activists blockaded the Heathrow Headquarters of BAA, preventing employees from entering the building. The action marked the 60th birthday of Heathrow airport.

The action by campaign group, Plane Stupid, was in support of local people whose homes will be demolished if a third runway gets the go ahead. A small team of protestors used piping and chains to lock themselves across the main entrance to the company’s offices, and have unfurled a banner reading, "No Airport Expansion".

Plane Stupid spokesman, Joss Garman, explained, "Since Heathrow is now 60, it’s time BAA took a health check – or better, early retirement. Emissions continue to rise with aviation now the fastest growing cause of climate change and, like a cancer, Heathrow is swallowing up villages like Sipson – wiping established communities off the map."

He added, "In 60 years, Heathrow has grown from being a small local airport into a climate change factory. BAA's plan to expand the airport further puts them in the premier league of climate change criminals. BAA can be assured; today’s action is just the start of our direct action campaign to stop airport expansion."

Last year 475,000 planes used Heathrow airport, with a plane landing at or taking off from the airport every 45 seconds throughout the day. If plans go ahead to make more use of the existing runways and build a third runway, flight numbers could exceed 700,000 according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Air pollution levels are already above the recommended levels and, according to a report published in March 2006, would exceed the EU legal limits were a third runway to be built.

In 1980, the government approved Terminal 4 on the understanding that there would be a cap of 260,000 plans using the airport each year and it would be the last development at Heathrow. In 2001, Terminal 5 was given the go-ahead on the condition that flight numbers at the airport did not exceed 480,000 a year. Within two years, the government proposed a third runway which the government estimates will lead to at least 655,000 flights per year.

In 1995, as BAA sought permission for a 5th Terminal, they ruled out a third runway, writing in its company newspaper, Heathrow News, "BAA has said repeatedly, 'There will be no third runway.'"

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN Clearskies, said, "The story of Heathrow is one of deception from day one. The only difference is that these days BAA does it with more style and spin. They constantly try to re-assure their 'stakeholders' that they have their best interests at heart whilst all the time plotting further expansion."