Plane Stupid on the runway at Southend

From the Press Release: 16 protesters arrested at Southend Airport.

16 protestors, who occupied the runway at Southend Airport, have been arrested by Essex Police.  It is believed they are being held at Southend Police Station. Campaigners from Plane Stupid and Climate Rush entered the airport shortly after 9am this morning.  The protest is against the planned expansion of Southend Airport.

Plane Stupid installed solar panels on the runway.  Campaigners from Climate Rush, dressed as pilots and cabin crew, were on a nearby footpath performing a dance routine.

A spokeswoman for the protestors said:

“Southend Council say the expansion will bring jobs.  But investment in renewable energy would create many more jobs without damaging the climate.  What we need is solar power not plane power.  The bigger runway is bad for climate change, bad for local residents under the flight path and is not needed to help the local economy.” 

Southend Airport has been bought by Stobarts, the logistics firm.  Easyjet has announced that it plans to start operating commercial flights from the airport in spring 2012.

There has been a major local campaign.  It has focused on the impact the airport would have on the thousands of people who will live under the flight paths.

Projection Activism

The Managing Director of Southend Airport, Alastair Welch has been targeted for pushing for expansion at Southend Airport - something which is not acceptable considering the climate change impacts.

Alastair Welch was giving a lecture at Southend's Royal Naval Association HQ when suddenly STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION amongst other messages were projected onto the building. There was no custard thrown, no superglue used - this was a simple, clever, imaginative and effective way to make a very valid point. A pat on the back is in order to whoever was behind this one.

Southend on Sea in need of seasonal solidarity


It's the Mayday bank holiday- where else to be but by the seaside, fighting petty government bullying and airport expansion?

Southend on Sea are having a Carnival Against Corruption on Monday, at 12.30 in Priory Park, and they'd love it if you could come along. The residents anti airport expansion group have been mounting such a determined campaign that the local Tory MP is insisting that they disband- on the basis that no one should campaign against a project that the council have approved...

Not content with the recent underhand legal tactics mentioned in blogs past, the authorities intimidation reached new lows last week when 7 people were arrested and held them for 4 hours without charge, for simply speaking out in a public council meeting.

So if you have an idle hour, come for a stroll in sunny Southend- there'll be a pedal pulled sound system, facepaints for the kids and a bunch of brave people that need back up.

The camp, the bling and a cat called Andrew

Last week, without any fanfare or proper consultation Southend-on-sea declared that they would be expanding their airport. Southend is an hour up the line from London. It used to be the East End's top holiday destination, but like so many British seaside towns it's lost out to cheap flights, and the fall of tourism has left it with an interesting growth industry: determined resistance to the ravages of its clueless council. For a flavour of what might be in wait for the airport, here is the story of a cat, a king, and a camp called Bling...

Some years ago in Southend preparations for a road widening scheme uncovered an internationally significant archaeological site: a Saxon King's burial ground. The council decided to raid the treasure and continue with the tarmac. In outraged tribute to their forbears' desecrated goldie looking chains, the locals decided to set up Camp Bling. For 4 years they occupied the land and mounted an incredibly inspiring grassroots campaign, that saw treehouses go up and 100 residents storm a private council awards ceremony.

Eventually the council backed down, and last summer an agreement was made to limit the road widening to a token gesture of 20 metres. The site carefully packed away their defences. Then a couple of months ago the council explained that, while they wouldn't be taking the burial site, they would be going back on their word and expanding 160 metres of road. So camp was set up again, at Cuckoo Corner. Lads who had been too young to be involved in Bling sat up the beautiful beech that was threatened.

For the last three weeks people have occupied the space 24/7, holding off the chainsaws and building a small but sturdy activist centre. On the three Saturday nights before possible eviction, dozens of locals lined the road in readiness. But then the council decided to make a vicious twist with their possession order for the land- just two days before the stated court date, they posted up a hit list of 12 people who they demanded should appeared in conjunction with the case.

Many of the people summoned to court had never even stayed on the site, and one of them, well, one of them was a cat (who had featured in newspaper articles about camp Bling). But it seems that a spot of brazen incompetence doesn't immediately stop Southend council getting their way, and the judge demanded that everyone who showed up to the court case pay costs for the privilege of doing so, and threatened them with contempt of court (and the resulting loss of their assets) if they decided to protest against the tree felling.

On Saturday, just one day after Whitehall gave the final rubber stamp to airport expansion, the bailiffs came in early with fencing, security guards, cutting crew and cranes. Within a few hours the mature trees that had graced the area for over a century were decimated. 50-100 residents gathered in spontaneous protest despite the council's bullying. One man made a bid to lock onto the extraction vehicles but was pulled off.

Camp Bling and Camp Cuckoo have always been clear that their stand was about more than trees and history, however important they know both to be. Ten years after the council tried to pointlessly widen a road, half a dozen trees have been lost from a project that proposed to take out well over a hundred. And many hundreds of people have seen that resistance is fertile, that stupid decisions can be fought, and that land can be won back.