Heathrow expansion: fight back begins

Smash and Grab

This just in: three female climate change activists carried out a nocturnal smash-and-paint on the Department for Transport. Draped in red sashes, they hurled bricks through the windows and chucked paint over the front of the building.

A spokeswoman said: "The government has opened the flood-gates for radical action. Yesterday they sacrificed all of our futures and spat in the face of democracy. The third runway is unwanted and is a global threat. When they make democracy meaningless what other reaction could they expect?"

"We have less than ten years to turn climate change around. Women cannot just stand by and let this government treat our futures as a joke. We fight for the safety of humanity, and if the government will only listen to the smash of windows, then so be it."

Ner ner ner ner ner we've got your runway

Ner ner ner ner ner

Gordon Brown may be feeling like the cat that got the cream, but you and I know that his runway won't get off the ground. Like thousands of people, I've signed up to be a beneficial owner of Greenpeace's scrap of land in Sipson. They emailed me today, asking if I'do tell Gordon that he's not getting his hands on our land.

It sounded like a good idea, so I popped over to their website and fired off a missive. Why not do the same yourself? You can sign up to own the land while you're at it. If you need some inspiration, here's what I sent our glorious leader.

Dear Prime Minister,

Like thousands of other people who care more for the environment than 'saving the world', I've got my hands on a bit of your runway. And like them, I'm not going to give it back.

Government announces Heathrow expansion

Parliament roof 3

So there we have it. A third runway sweetened with some token greenwash. It's pitiful that the Cabinet members who originally opposed the plan have been swung by Hoon's wishy-washy promises. At least John McDonnell had the strength of character to take a stand, getting banned from Parliament for a week after barracking the Transport Secretary.

The Civil Aviation Authority is a puppet regulator so letting them act as eco-watchdog is like putting the Kray twins in charge of the Met Police. As for 2050 targets: Hoon and his colleagues will be pushing up daisies long before anyone is brought to account for breaching them. As for high-speed rail: Hoon's uncosted, unqualified and unsubstantiated references are not worth the hot air they're printed on.

It's laughable that this Government thinks that building a runway in 2015 will halt a recession in 2009; unless, that is, they're thinking of jobs in prison construction. Half of middle England will be arrested stopping this monstrosity, so we'll need a lot more jail cells before this whole debacle is over.

Read our press release

Environment Secretary to resign over third runway?

Hilary Benn

The Heathrow decision hasn't been formally announced and still the rumour mill is working on overdrive. Our Westminster mole has just revealed that the fallout could include at least one member of the Cabinet. We're hearing that the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, might have handed in his resignation.

If this is true it's heartening to think that at least one member of the Brownite inner circle has the cojones to stand up to their party's determination to screw over the planet so their leader can look Churchillian. After all, anything but a resignation would make a mockery of his job description.

Hilary: how you handle the next twenty-four hours will directly impact on whether we hit our climate change targets. You know, as I do, that we can't build runways and reduce emissions by 80%. Millions of people around the world will suffer from climate change, and hundreds in the UK will lose their homes for this runway. Do you really want to stand by and let that happen?

Heathrow decision: 12:30 tomorrow

Heathrow decision

After months of dithering, Geoff Hoon and Gordon Brown are a mere 18 hours away from making their decision on Heathrow. In a move bound to shock absolutely no one, they'll give the go ahead for expansion.

Top secret sources inside the Westminster bubble have exclusively revealed (probably through an embargoed press release) that the announcement will be made just after lunch. Expect lots of talk of strict environmental limits, watchdogs, high-speed rail, the emissions trading scheme and all sorts of other nonsense.

Sod it: let the aviation industry have its moment of glory. We all know that no one is going to be building any runways near London any time soon. Not at Stansted, not at Gatwick, not at Luton and certainly not at Heathrow. If you haven't signed up to own a few blades of grass under the runway, then visit the Greenpeace Artport! website quickly.

Airplot! Greenpeace buys land to scupper third runway


Psst... want to own a piece of West London? Pop over to Greenpeace and sign up to Airplot!: the latest ploy to monkeywrench the Government's plans for Heathrow expansion. They've purchased a couple of acres of land in the middle of the area designated for the third runway, and are doling it out to anyone who fancies becoming a member of the propertied classes.

I've signed up, as have most of Plane Stupid, tons of environmentalists, a few journalists and Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs. The plot has been turned into a giant banner visible from the air, with the words 'Our Climate, Our Land' written on it in chalk. By slicing and dicing this patch of earth Greenpeace plans to disrupt the compulsory purchase order process (where the State decides it's having your land, whether you want to sell it to them or not).

It's a tried-and-tested method, pioneered by an anti-roads group in the 1980s. Wheatley Friends of the Earth, fighting the construction of the M40 through Oxfordshire, sold off portions of Alice's Meadow - so-named because it inspired sections of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. What Greenpeace have planned is slightly different, but no doubt equally effective. I can't wait to head over to my new patch of dirt and start digging a tunnel - first one to Australia wins a free BAA t-shirt!

Last minute Cabinet rebellion may delay Heathrow announcement

Climate Rush 1

As MPs returned from their long winter breaks the Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has been hard at work making sure that they don't get a say on Heathrow expansion. With 57 confirmed Labour rebels and strong opposition from the Lib Dems and Conservatives a vote on expansion would get defeated pretty heavily, so Hoon was planning to announce expansion this week: too quick for the Tories to schedule a vote.

It's a risky game. Hoon is gambling that Labour rebels - who might vote against expansion to influence an as-yet-unmade decision - won't want to side with the opposition if the decision has already been made. Unsurprisingly MPs with legitimate concerns about NOx levels, CO2 emissions, noise, increase traffic, the destruction of Sipson, etc, etc, are none best pleased by all this manipulation, and have launched a last-ditch attempt to make Hoon see sense. They've demanding reassurance that Heathrow won't be allowed to expand if it harms the environment.

The decision could be delayed until the end of the month. Hoon needs his Cabinet colleagues behind him, but what promises can he actually make? BAA won't limit capacity: it's already cramming planes into every nook and cranny. Expansion can't be done within the "strict, local, environmental limits" - as EU Environment chief Stavros Dimas warned last year. Does anyone really believe that this Government would lie to us over the consultation, turn Sipson into rubble and then turn around and ban any increase in flights because they're suddenly worried about the planet?

Cabinet split growing: MPs demand a vote on Heathrow

Airbus over houses

When Governments face rebellion in the back benches, they traditionally defer whatever is causing the problem. This buys them enough time to offer out peerages and cushy jobs to the rebels, defusing enough of the protest to win a vote when the division bell sounds. But Transport Secretary Geoff 'Buff' Hoon may live to regret delaying the Heathrow decision, because this rebellion shows no sign of dying out.

West London Labour MPs who recognise they'll get a kicking in the next election (and a fair few who would benefit from high-speed rail) are now demanding a vote in the Commons - and the Tories or Lib Dems may be able to provide one. Senior Cabinet Ministers are now openly briefing against expansion, concerned that the "strict, local environmental limits" will be broken. BAA even tried to talk up an independent board to analyse the airport's eco-impact, only to be laughed off the Today programme.

The latest plan is to scrap the runway and opt for mixed-mode; such a political option. Mixed-mode - where the airport uses both runways for take-offs and landings - is not as sexy as the destruction of an ancient village, and there would not be as many extra flights. But it's still nonsense. It really doesn't matter whether your emissions come from new runways or old ones; what matters is whether they are increasing or not. Mixed-mode will increase emissions, so it must be sent packing - along with any residual plans to build another runway.

BAA admits lying about third runway

Heathrow plane

In 1995 residents who lived near Heathrow received a letter through the post from Sir John Egan, then chief executive of BAA. He stated categorically that BAA did not want a third runway, and that Terminal 5 was not laying the ground for getting any additional airport capacity.

He wrote to them again in 1999 and went even further: "I can now report that we went even further at the Inquiry and call on the Inspector to recommend that, subject to permission being given for T5, an additional Heathrow runway should be ruled out forever." Heathrow boss Mike Roberts also wrote to residents to allay their fears about BAA wanting a third runway.

They were, of course, lying - and now Mike Forster, BAA Director of Strategy, has admitted it was all one big fib. When grilled about Egan's letters before the Heathrow Consultative Committee, Forster replied “Well, that's what he had to say to get permission for Terminal 5.” Well that's alright then. BAA has belatedly started being a bit more honest; last year their CEO refused to rule out a fourth runway when questioned by the London Assembly.

Heathrow decision delayed as Hoon rules out Commons vote

No, no, no

With everyone expecting an announcement on Heathrow next Tuesday, Transport Supremo Geoff Hoon has decided to delay his decision until next year to give himself more time to decide. It's no surprise that he's stalling for time: councils across London are gearing up for a judicial review and Hoon needs to be seen to have thought about his decision very carefully.

There are also rumours of a seismic split in the Cabinet, with a strange coalition of Harman, both Milibands and Hilary Benn on the opponents bench. But forget about democracy: Hoon also vowed not to let the Commons vote on expansion (because he'd lose - over 50 Labour rebels signed an EDM against expansion, wiping out Labour's majority). It makes a mockery of Brown's statement that "decisions should be taken on the floor of this House" when we scrambled about on his roof.

This dithering really isn't good enough: Sipson and West London have had the spectre of expansion hanging over them for far too long. The Government needs to come clean and tell us whether the runway is going ahead or not. After all, there's the long, hard work of building barricades to be sorted - or organising street parties, in the unlikely event that Labour comes to its senses and does the right thing.