More Government cover-up over Heathrow impacts

Another Sunday Times splash: those naughty officials at DfT spent 16 months trying to stop Justine Greening, MP for Putney, seeing information about the third runway. This includes emails which pointed out that "some consultees may ... claim collusion" between the Department for Transport and BAA.

Not only did they do everything to delay releasing documents, but they doctored reports to remove references to technical documents so that campaigners wouldn't know they existed. According to the Sunday Times, a memo from the senior strategy manager on Heathrow at BAA explicitly asks for a reference to BAA technical notes to be removed. It then adds: "He has avoided all references to the TNs [technical notes] in the surface access report and suggests, which I would agree with, that if [name redacted] can change his reference it could minimise the opportunity for a request for access to any or all of the TNs."

The emails show that the Government beefed up a consultation of businesses in the South East to make its case. Just 2.6% of the 6,000 businesses consulted bothered to reply, but the DfT still claimed that 90% of businesses relied on expansion, even though it was obvious that only those with a vested interest in the third runway had bothered to respond.

Nothing the Government did when making the case for expansion was above board. Civil servants and BAA sat down and openly conspired together to try and get the runway built. They moved the NOx meters further from the source of emissions to play down the levels of pollution. They invented magic planes which made no noise and emitted next to nothing (and which no engineer in their right mind would trust to get off the ground in one piece).

These reports are a damning paper trail of the lengths the Government would go to sell for communities around Heathrow down the river. It's time for heads to fall, but the Government will doubtless stand by Sir Humphrey and chums. That's no surprise: there's been a revolving door between Labour and the aviation industry since they first sniffed victory back in 1997. Plus ca change, etc.

Eden Project architects catch third runway pox

Following last week's hi-jinx at the architecture awards, the bored-and-ill-informed climate change deniers at Building Design magazine decided to find out if we'd targeted the right people when we tried to give Pascal & Watson their 'We Don't Give a Shit' award for going for the Heathrow contract.

Pascal & Watson have done plenty of airport expansion in the past so we're confident that they deserve the award, but they lost out on the Heathrow contract to Grimshaw. Grimshaw, who never tire of telling everyone that they designed the Eden Project, are a founder member of the UK Green Building Council. The UK's most controversial high-carbon development is a curious direction for them to start moving in.

Intimate relations with BAA are never a wise PR move for any brand, but Grimshaw seems particularly ill equipped to enter the third runway warzone. Sir Nicholas Grimshaw - inventor of EVA ("Environmentally Viable Architecture") goes around saying things like: "We've been trying to define our ideals in our practice recently, and one of things that came out was that we would very strongly rather work with people we liked! Empathy with the people we were designing for was a critical issue, and although you could make a lot of money working for bastards, there's no real joy in it."

The UK Green Building Council has defended Grimshaw, saying, "...we need to direct our anger at the policymakers involved. Where does this stop? Should we be protesting against the people that pour the concrete for coal-fired power stations?". Hmm. If you expect us to applaud architects for doing sustainable architecture then why can't we attack them for doing unsustainable architecture? Swings and bloody roundabouts.

In Memoriam Grimshaw Sustainable Architects
So. Farewell then Grimshaw sustainable architects.
Your bedfellow has violated you.
Now, infected, simply:
Grimshaw, architects.

The Award Ceremony Crashers 2: this time it's architecture

Last time they crashed the PR Week awards, and were thrown out. This time, it's the Architects Awards... where they gave out a prize.

Heathrow campaigners storm Architect Awards to warn off third runway bids

Plane Stupid activists along with three residents from Heathrow have targeted one of the potential third runway designers at this year’s Architects of the Year Awards held at London's Intercontinental Hotel. Architect group Pascall and Watson, nominated for Transport Architect of the Year, have been at the forefront of airport expansion since the early 1960's.

The activists stormed the podium and gave a short speech before offering Pascall and Watson the ‘We don't give a Shit’ award in recognition of their 50 year aviation portfolio which includes expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and Abu Dhabi airports.

Other activists handed out leaflets to the audience. Once the award had been presented the activists left of their own accord.

Tracy Howard, 35 year old mother of two and barmaid at the King William IV pub in Sipson - which will be destroyed if a third runway is allowed to go ahead - said:

"We're here today to let the architecture world know about the diverse and growing movement against the third runway and airport expansion across the country. Those involved with airport expansion will have to include this growing opposition in their designs and in their budget".

Joe Ryle, 18, Plane Stupid activist and Heathrow resident said:

"Architects bidding for the third runway contract, or any other new runway, can expect to see a lot more of us. We presented them with the 'We don't give a Shit' award both to recognise their contribution to destroying our homes and to say that trying to build a green airport is like trying to polish a turd."

Dance till the runways are gone

The weekend before last Plane Stupid activists joined residents from around Heathrow to celebrate the strength of community resistance to the third runway with an Adopt a Resident ceilidh. Not only was it a storming success, but it was on the eve of BAA announcing they’re probably going to shelve the third runway!

Never ones to to miss out on a dance, 18 Plane Stupid activists came all the way from Scotland complete with kilts, traditional songs, tartan bunting and 40 litres of veggie haggis! Word of the Scots’ arrival had even spread to the local bobby (and not, we hope, because of the NETCU database).

Local residents spun the activists round and round, stomping and yelling, whirling and twirling to the up-beat music of Cut-a-Shine. Surely there are few better ways to show country-wide solidarity than to dance together arm in arm?

After everyone was suitably sweaty from spinning and line dancing some choice speakers said some powerful words. It is obvious from this event that strong bonds have been forged across the country; as far apart as Heathrow and Aberdeen. Those threatened with compulsory purchase for Donald Trump’s housing and golf resort are not unlike the residents threatened by the Heathrow third runway: we're all suffering from a system that puts the wants of business before the needs of communities.

There followed some new Adopt a Resident pairings, joined in a ceremonial limbo under the arm tube before local band Pig Earth kicked off the rest of the night.

With haggis, kilts and Ceilidh dancing, Plane Stupid and NoTRAG showed BAA that there will no third runway and as if by magic some news the next day was excellent respite from a hang-over. If there’s an airport near you and a town hall close by, you’d better get your kilt on!

They think it's all over...


Apologies for the lack of blog post yesterday declaring the conflict to be over and thanking everyone from my stylist to my cat's stylist to the drama teacher who believed in me. I was climbing in the Peak District, having first phoned BAA to check that they weren't planning to make any big announcements while I was away. Their publicist assured me that they weren't, so I packed my bags and went.

But through the impenetrable morning fog came a quiet vibrating. Leo: "Seen the news?" Me: "No, just drizzle and sheep." Leo: "BAA's canceled the third runway." Me: "Ah. Nice." Leo: "Oh, and half of Greenpeace is on the roof of Parliament."

So BAA has told Theresa Villiers that there's not to be a planning application submitted before the election, and Villiers has sworn that scrapping the third runway is a manifesto commitment. Unless the polls are wrong (and some of us who grew up under Thatcher might be wishing that they were) the Conservatives will win the next election. Ipso facto, no new runway at Heathrow.

At the moment it's all speculation, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that expansion at Stansted and Heathrow is pretty sunk. But that doesn't mean that the battle is over. Across the UK craven councillors, regional development tossers and the Secretary of State for Climate Change are all trying to get regional airports expanded. While the third runway may have been the symbol of climate illiteracy, regional airport expansion is a testament to the self-important: "Bristol has to have a great big airport or I'll feel inadequate when I meet councillors from other cities."

So rest assured: Plane Stupid is not giving up and going home. While last week was an awesome one for climate change activists - agreement on deforestation in the Amazon, no Kingsnorth, no third runway - there's still plenty of fight to be had. Over the next year we'll be taking on the regional airport expansion programme and that great generator of demand, deliberately misleading airline adverts ("Fly to Barcelona right fucking now or you'll have nothing to talk about at work on Monday"). We'd really like you to come along for the ride.

In fact, why not start now by grabbing your mates and dragging them to the Great Climate Swoop next weekend? You're also invited to Copenhagen in December, and why not join us as we occupy the runway of... oh wait, that action's a secret. You'll just have to wait and see.

Heathrow expansion not great value after all

One of the best things about being a monetising economist is getting to pretend that ideology has nothing to do with anything. Monetisers, for those of us lucky enough not to have to deal with them, are tasked with asigning a value to something which has no obvious price. Cheese, for instance, has a value: a block of it might be worth one pound, or two pound, or eight pound if bought from a fromagerie in Knightsbridge. But community? Or a quiet park in the city? Or time? What are they worth?

To answer that, you turn to a monetiser, who will weigh everything up and then find a way of pricing it cheap enough that some developers will still get to pave all over it and erect a car park. That 10th C Norman church? £10,000 to you squire. The cost of climate change? Too cheap to prevent the sort of behaviour which might prevent it happening.

But a concerted effort by those greenies at DECC has revised the value of carbon, increasing it as time goes on. A tonne of CO2 now isn't worth much - about the price of a night out in Soho - but by 2050 it's risen to the cost of a Fiat Panda, because a tonne emitted in 2050 is more likely to put us over our carbon limit and require another cut somewhere else. DECC's revision has made the value of carbon equivalent to the cost of achieving that extra reduction. Emit CO2 now or in 2050 and you'd pay for someone else to reduce their footprint to make up for it.

So far, so gravy. But then those clever boffins at the Liberal Democrats ran the cost of carbon through the Heathrow calculations. They discovered that the marked increase in the cost of carbon basically wiped out any economic benefits accrued from the third runway. In earlier versions the cost of the 181m tonnes of carbon dioxide the runway would emit between now and 2080 was £4.8b. Now it had risen to £9.3bn to 2080, wiping out the £5b benefits.

What does the Government think? Not much sadly: according to a recent PQ they haven't had a chance to look at the new benefit-cost ratio, but are pretty convinced that it will still be robust. Nothing to see here then, time to move along.

A strangely significant Saturday afternoon in Sipson

At first sight it might have appeared a little strange. In one corner of Airplot, the Greenpeace field in Sipson now owned by over 50,000 people, stood three horses. In the other, elegant women dressed as climate suffragettes and a few smartly-dressed men with a camp fire in the background.

The Climate Rush had come to Sipson, the village which would be obliterated if a third runway goes ahead at Heathrow. The afternoon turned out to be far from strange; indeed, it became strangely significant. People fighting struggles against what out-of-control businesses are doing to their communities stood up, one by one, to tell their moving tales. And it felt great, and empowering, and like being part of something.

We heard how Shell is decimating communities and destroying precious habitats at on the West Coat of Ireland; of the way open-cast mining is shattering the peace and quiet of Merthyr Tydfil; of E-ON’s (failed) attempts to destroy valuable lakes in Berkshire. We heard from residents living in the sprawling council estate of Easterhouse in Glasgow and from the Vespa workers who occupied their wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight. And, of course, we heard about BAA’s plans to destroy Sipson, to tear the heart out of a community which is about 1,000 years older than the airport which is trying to cover it in several feet of tarmac.

Different struggles but with huge similarities. Ordinary people linking up with climate activists to fight their battles. The next day the Climate Rush took to the road heading north. More stories, more struggles, more hope will doubtless follow as they wind their way towards Totnes.

Adopt a Resident Autumn Ceilidh - get your dancing shoes on pronto!

It's widely claimed that famous anarchist Emma Goldman once declared that "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution," and who are we to argue? So make your way to the Adopt a Resident Autumn ceilidh for some revolutionary line dancing. Yee ha!

If you've never heard of a ceilidh, then now's your chance to find out. It's basically a communal dance with live bands, particularly popular in Scotland, Ireland and Climate Camp. There are generally fiddles, line dances and gingham.

The party is happening on 10 October, from 7pm – 11pm, at the West Drayton Community Centre, Harmondsworth Road, West Drayton. Awesome bands include Cut-a-Shine and Harmonsworth's very own Earth Pig.

Earlier this year over 50 activists adopted more than 50 residents who live in the communities threatened by a third runway. This is the latest event to bring activists and residents together, to build relationshships strong enough to resist the bulldozers.

Tickets are limited, going like vegan hot cakes and available from Plane Stupid Scotland: scotland@planestupid.com. First come, first served, so don't be the sad panda sitting on the sidelines while everyone else shakes their tail feathers.

ASA: no proof third runway would not increase noise or pollution

An interesting turn of events: last year Future Heathrow paid for an advert claiming that a third runway would not increase pollution or noise. Fast forward several months, and the Advertising Standards Agency has just ruled the advert misleading. Naughty naughty!

The normally placid ASA "noted Future Heathrow and BAA firmly believed that the noise and air limits would not be breached, but considered that the evidence we had seen was not sufficient to justify an absolute claim that noise and pollution would not increase following the construction of a third runway." Given that this evidence came from BAA and the Government, they're basically saying that the Department for Airport Expansion and its Ministers were lying.

I feel strangely vindicated, because around about the same time four colleagues and I were prancing about on the roof of Parliament, trying to say exactly the same thing. Sadly we got convicted and fined, while Future Heathrow was merely told not to run the advert again. A bit late really, given that a) they ran it over a year ago and b) they'll just get a new advert made, but I suppose it's the thought that counts.