Publicity & Politics News
Below are links to stories on protests, publicity events and other aviation stories that have hit the news.
Launch of “Stay Grounded” network – organisations around the world opposing unsustainable aviation/airport expansion
The Stay Grounded network has been officially launched. It now has over 130 signatories, (including the No 3rd Runway Coalition, and others in the UK) and more than 80 member organisations. Stay Grounded aims to reduce the environmentally and socially damaging impact of aviation, by stopping its fast rate of expansion across the world. The industry has privileged status in many ways, including its out-of-control increasing carbon emissions. The Stay Grounded network has published a position paper outlining 13 steps for a transition towards a transport system that is more socially just and ecologically sustainable. Many non-violent actions took place in countries around the world, in a recent week of action. These were directed against airport infrastructure projects, many of them leading not only to rising CO2 emissions, but also noise and health issues, loss of homes, biodiversity and fertile lands. Around the world there are about 1200 airports planned to be built or being expanded. Stay grounded will also highlight the industry’s inadequate “greenwashing” strategies, which will lead to increasing pressure on ecosystems, local farming communities, and indigenous peoples, particularly in the Global South.
Anti-Heathrow protesters stage hunger strike against Heathrow 3rd runway plans, asking people to lobby their MPs to vote against it
On Saturday 9th, campaigners from the Vote NO Heathrow campaign started a hunger strike, to draw attention to the huge risk that MPs might vote in favour of a 3rd Heathrow runway. The vote is likely in the next two weeks. Over 30 campaigners gathered outside the London HQ of the Labour Party in Victoria Street, for the start of the hunger strike by 5 of them. They intend to continue not to eat for as long as their health permits, and if possible until the vote in Parliament. Earlier in the week, 8 campaigners were arrested outside the building for using chalk spray on the pavement and the glass windows, to highlight their message. The vote of the Labour party is crucial, and it is hoped that MPs will appreciate that the runway fails the 4 tests Labour has set for it, and impose a 3-line whip. The Tories may impose a 3-line whip in favour of the runway. The Vote NO Heathrow campaign wants as many people as possible to write to their MP - of whichever party - to ask them to vote against the runway. There are many important arguments, why the runway should be opposed (more details below) but these could be summarised as economic problems, UK region problems, noise, air pollution and increased carbon emissions.
Campaigner who was approached by police to spy on anti-airport campaign wants proper inquiry into police infiltration
Environmental campaigner Tilly Gifford wants a public inquiry to investigate claims that she was "targeted" by undercover police officers who wanted her to spy on fellow activists. In 2009, Tilly was working with Plane Stupid, which was protesting about the environmental damage done by airport expansion. She told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland that she was arrested during a protest at Aberdeen Airport and police wanted her to feed them intelligence on the group. They wanted information about the groups she worked with, the individuals, and what they were planning - in exchange for cash. She has tapes of the conversations. Now 9 years later she is at the forefront of attempts to win a judicial review to force either the UK government to extend its inquiry - or have the Scottish government set up its own. She says all her actions were totally peaceful and non-violent, even if some laws were violated, and: "The question here is not about undercover policing, it is about undercover political policing." "We know now that up to thousands of campaigns across the whole of the UK, in Scotland as well, have been targeted by undercover political policing and it is time for a full public inquiry." It is likely that campaigns against Heathrow's expansion have been targeted too.
After 50 year battle, French government abandons plans for new Nantes airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Victory!
It has finally been announced, by Edouard Philippe (Prime Minister of France) that the proposed new airport for Nantes, at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL), has been abandoned. President Emmanuel Macron and Edouard Philippe have buried the project, which has been seriously criticised for its cost and its environmental consequences. The leaders see the airport as impossible to build because of the fierce opposition by around half the population, so it just a constant source of division. Instead the executive backs re-development of the current Nantes-Atlantique airport, south of the city of Nantes, which will be modernised and have its runway lengthened. That would help a bit to lessen the noise from the flight path that goes over part of the city. The Prime Minister has also announced an expansion of the airport of Rennes-Saint-Jacques and a development of high-speed rail lines between the West and Paris airports. Opponents of the NDDL scheme are jubilant - the battle has lasted almost 50 years, and they almost lost on several occasions. But Edouard Philippe said the "zone to defend" (ZAD) will be cleared, so it is no longer a lawless area with blocked roads etc. Those occupying it will have to leave, and the land be returned to agricultural use
Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, gets home visit from carolling anti-3rd-runway campaigners
A group of residents facing the misery that would result from a 3rd Heathrow runway made a light-hearted festive protest outside the home of the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling by singing re-worded Christmas carols -on the last night of the government Draft Airports NPS consultation. Only a couple of the campaigners knew the destination in advance so it wasn't until leaving Harmondsworth that everyone discovered they would be singing outside Grayling's house, his retreat from the daily grind of plotting the destruction of other people's homes. Grayling himself was in Parliament at the time, and no family members appeared to be at home. The protesters drank mulled wine and festive drinks, and sang their own renditions of well-known carols, with suitably altered, anti-runway, words. A Stop Heathrow Expansion spokesperson commented "Looking down the drive from the road and seeing the sprawling detached house with it's huge Christmas tree displayed in the un-curtained front window, it is easy to see why our Secretary State has no comprehension of the misery he will inflict on others with a third runway." And they hoped Grayling would "spare a thought for people who face another Christmas under threat and reflect on their situation."
Mediators on the proposed new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes submit report to government – a decision in January perhaps?
On 13th December the French government got the report from the three mediators, who are looking into the proposed project to build an airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL), north of Nantes. President Emmanuel Macron had announced that he would take a decision in January on this complex issue. The mediators had heard evidence both for and against the construction of a new airport on a site currently occupied by the project's opponents or the extension of the runways at the existing Nantes-Atlantiques airport. The mediators point out that both have disadvantages and there is no "perfect solution". Building a new airport would mean more urban sprawl and damage and destruction of an environmentally sensitive site, as the protesters and farmers who have occupied the site since 2009 have continued to point out. The main argument in favour of the new NDDL airport is increased noise for those under flight paths of the existing airport. The new airport would probably cost the French taxpayer up to €920 million, and extending runways at the existing airport might cost €545 million. At the NDDL site there are 650 hectares of farms, whose owners refuse to give up their land. In addition, the place is a wetland, home to a large number of protected species. Some of the facts and arguments are set out in these articles.
Anti 3rd runway campaign puts on “Bare necessities” display at Theresa May’s Maidenhead festival
Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE), a local campaign group made up of residents opposing the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway, attended the Maidenhead Festival 22 and 23 July. They had a fun but serious message – fighting for the ‘bare necessities’ that Heathrow expansion would threaten. The theme of the need for "the bare necessities of life" took centre stage at the group’s pitch to local residents at the annual festival, with essentials including: - the right to a settled home, - air free from pollution, - good health, - quiet time for essential rest, - a planet safe from climate change. SHE believes all these would be put at risk with a 3rd runway, and to get the message across, three members wore distinctive bear costumes for the day - to highlight the ‘bare necessities’ theme. The extra 260,000 planes per year that would use an expanded Heathrow would serious noise problems for tens of thousands in the area, worse air pollution, and huge strain on local housing caused by the displacement of the two villages of Harmondsworth and Longford nearby. The negative impacts on her constituency should be a matter of concern to Theresa May, its MP. The previously opposed the runway, but is now prepared to sacrifice her residents' quality of life, for the slightly desperate attempt by this weakened government to show "Britain is open for business" post-Brexit, by backing a highly dubious, costly, damaging, runway project.
“Grow Heathrow” runway protest community given 14 days to leave site in Sipson
"Grow Heathrow" is a community project that has been living in Sipson since 2010, as a protest against a 3rd Heathrow runway. They have been fighting eviction for many years. Now Grow Heathrow has been given 14 days to leave, by the High Court. They had taken over a derelict site and turned it into a partly self sufficient community, growing a lot of their own food and acting as a community centre. On 29th June Judge Dight granted a possession order to the landlords of the site, Lewdown Holdings. The judge acknowledged the hardship and logistical difficulties which will be caused by the effect of the order - which requires the eviction of an entire settled community, but granted Lewdown the possession order. The judge said the owner had no need to justify his alleged failure to use the land for any purpose, though it had been derelict. Lewdown Holdings have had their planning permission for the site rejected, so nothing is planned on it. Grow Heathrow say they will appeal, and they do not intend to leave. They are being given pro bono legal help from Leigh Day. One of the activists living at Grow Heathrow said: “We are completely committed to continuing support for the local community. Airport expansion will make their homes uninhabitable." They have a lot of support from local residents, one of whom commented: "They took over a piece of neglected land which they skilfully rejuvenated to provide a vibrant hub for like-minded people.”
400 mile walk Harmondsworth to Holyrood: Neil takes his anti-Heathrow runway message to the SNP
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.
Day 17 of Neil’s walk to Scotland – through the Northumberland National Park
21st April: Day 17 of Neil Keveren's 400 mile walk from Harmondsworth to Edinburgh. Neil is less than a week away from his destination, Edinburgh. His body is holding up but he is facing the toughest part of his walk, with the weather forecast next week talking about Arctic winds (headwinds) and thunderstorms! Neil has blogged about what it has been like walking through the Northumberland National Park. "Strong winds today and I have my waterproofs on. It's so hilly! I've been on this same road now for days and it takes some getting used to. When I look at the road ahead I'm aware that I have to walk as far as the eye can see. When I look behind me I see a vast stretch of road that I've walked. ...The landscape is stunning. A bonus on this walk has been absorbing some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. ... It's also been good to have so much support on the road - not just from Ray in the van. Drivers beep me and people on the street stop to wish me well. A few people have walked along for a while to keep me company and have chat. Perhaps the most unusual though was a flock of sheep who walked their boundary with me - I think they liked my hi-vis. ... Today was a tough walking day, with serious hills on one long, mostly Roman, route."