400 mile walk Harmondsworth to Holyrood: Neil takes his anti-Heathrow runway message to the SNP
Date added: April 28, 2017
Neil Keveren, a builder who lives in one of the villages that would be partially destroyed by the construction of Heathrow’s proposed 3rd runway, has completed a 400-mile walk from Heathrow to Edinburgh, in protest at the SNP’s backing for the plans. Neil arrived at the Scottish Parliament 23 days after leaving his home in Harmondsworth on 4th April, having covered about 20 miles every day. Neil was born in the village of Sipson, which is also facing partial demolition if the expansion goes ahead. For Keveren, the expansion of Heathrow is deeply personal. His house in nearby Harmondsworth is located only 54 paces from the enlarged airport’s boundary fence, while his 82-year-old uncle Ray (his support driver on the walk) also stands to lose his home. The SNP block of 54 MPs formally backed the Heathrow bid, in the probably mistaken belief it would bring significant strategic and economic benefits for Scotland, including the very dubious indeed figure of “up to 16,000 new jobs” – over many years. Neil had appointments with a number of SNP MPs during the day, and had the opportunity to give them more information about the runway. So far most of them have only received very biased information from Heathrow, and they were interested to learn some of the inaccuracies and exaggerations in what they have been led to believe. Neil’s amazing walk proved the opportunity to talk to the SNP and correct misapprehensions.
From Harmondsworth to Holyrood: man walks 400 miles to protest Heathrow expansion
Neil Keveren at the Scottish Parliament protesting against the expansion of Heathrow
By Chris Green (The i)
Wednesday April 26th 2017
A man who lives in one of the villages that stands to be partially destroyed by the construction of Heathrow’s proposed third runway has completed a 400-mile walk from London to Edinburgh in protest at the SNP’s backing for the plans.
Neil Keveren, 55, arrived at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday after leaving his home in Harmondsworth earlier this month (4th April) and undertaking a three-week odyssey across Britain, covering up to 20 miles a day.
“I don’t see why people’s quality of life should be affected so drastically due to people wanting a gin and tonic on a beach” Neil Keveren.
The builder was born in Sipson, which is also facing partial demolition when the expansion finally goes ahead.
The choice of a third runway was officially supported by the Government last October.
For Keveren, the expansion of Heathrow is deeply personal. His house in nearby Harmondsworth is located only 54 paces from the enlarged airport’s boundary fence, while his 82-year-old uncle Ray also stands to lose his home.
“Expanding Heathrow is like throwing a rock into a pond,” he told i shortly after completing the final leg of his journey, which took him to the main entrance of the Scottish Parliament.
“You’ve got the devastation of 850 homes in the middle, the biggest clearance of a population since the Second World War.
“As the ripples move out, you’ve got 1.2 million Londoners who will suffer from noise detrimental to their health.”
The SNP formally backed the Heathrow bid shortly before it was given the provisional green light, arguing that the plans carried significant strategic and economic benefits for Scotland, including up to 16,000 new jobs.
Mr Keveren said he hoped to meet several senior SNP politicians while he was in Edinburgh with the aim of persuading them to withdraw their support for the expansion, explaining how it will impact local people.
He also claimed that the main beneficiaries of the increase in flights in and out of the UK would be a “frequent flier elite” rather than the general public. “I don’t see why people’s quality of life should be affected so drastically due to people wanting a gin and tonic on a beach four or five times a year,” he added.
As his walk took him down many busy roads, Mr Keveren was unable to listen to music and had to be alert and aware of his surroundings. His only distraction was the occasional toot of support from a passing motorist, who spotted his distinctive aeroplane hat and bright red tabard.
His uncle Ray drove his support van, which also provided their accommodation for most nights of the trip. “I’m no athlete – I’m a builder,” he added. “But for anyone who is reasonably fit, in small bites, it’s do-able.”
Neil and Harmondsworth residents, who had come up to Edinburgh by train to meet Neil, with members of the local Edinburgh Airport Watch group outside the Parliament
Neil with members of Friends of the Earth Scotland outside the Scottish Parliament
and Neil met lots of SNP MSPs as well as Green Party MSPs inside Parliament, where he had time to talk to them and explain the reasons for his walk, and why the runway is both devastating for the area where he lives – and also that the benefits Heathrow has said would come to Scotland from the runway have been highly exaggerated.
Neil hopes that tackling the challenge by foot will send a strong message to the Scottish Government that Heathrow expansion is a bad idea and they should drop their support for it.
The Harmondsworth resident, born in the neighbouring village of Sipson, said: “Throughout the past three weeks I have met many politicians and campaigners across England in the hope of changing their minds from supporting a third runway at Heathrow.
“Now I am in Scotland, I will be meeting a series of Scottish politicians and will seek to persuade them that a third runway cannot be delivered.
“A third runway at Heathrow would leave Scottish taxpayers with a multi-billion-pound bill, would far from guarantee any lasting benefits for Scotland, be incompatible with climate change targets and result in the destruction of thousands of homes.
“Do the Scottish Government really want their record tarnished by this terrible project?”
Passing through many villages, towns and cities in England along the way, Neil met MPs, campaigners and residents who heard his story.
The determined villager has made a big impression in the past to show his commitment to campaigning against the runway – even blocking the tunnel into Heathrow with his van in protest.
Crossing the Scottish Border last Sunday (April 23) Neil battled tough outdoor weather conditions as he made his way through south Scotland.
Now, campaign group Stop Heathrow Expansion will be supporting him as he visits the Scottish Parliament to mark the end of his three-week walk.