Greta Thunberg joins protest against expansion of Farnborough airport, that is only for private jets

The climate activist Greta Thunberg marched alongside local residents and XR activists to protest against Farnborough airport’s expansion plans. The airport, that only has private jets, submitted a planning application to Rushmoor borough council in September 2023 to increase the number of flights from 50,000 to 70,000 a year.  The plan is also to increase weekend and bank holiday flights going from 8,900 to 18,000 per year, and for flights to be allowed an hour earlier and later at weekends, so changing from from 8am to 8pm currently, to 7am to 9pm. They also want to increase the weight of jets, so even bigger and heavier private jets can operate without restriction.  Private jets produce far, far more CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer even than business/first class in commercial planes. They are used not only by politicians and top business people, for work purposes, but increasingly just for holidays and leisure. The large protest at the airport called for a total ban on private jets. Greta Thunberg attended, and said:  “The fact that using private jets is both legally and socially allowed today in an escalating climate emergency is completely detached from reality.”


Greta Thunberg joins protest against expansion of Hampshire airport

Farnborough airport submits plans to increase number of flights amid calls for a ban on private jets

By Kevin Rawlinson and agency  (Guardian)
Sat 27 Jan 2024

The climate activist Greta Thunberg has marched alongside local residents and Extinction Rebellion activists to protest against an airport’s expansion plans.

Farnborough Airport Ltd has submitted a planning application to Rushmoor borough council to increase the number of flights from 50,000 to 70,000 a year. The Swedish climate activist joined the march from Farnborough town centre, in Hampshire, to Farnborough airport.

The group set off pink smoke flares and waved banners as they called for a total ban on private jets, which they say are up to 30 times more polluting than passenger airliners.

“The fact that using private jets is both legally and socially allowed today in an escalating climate emergency is completely detached from reality,” Thunberg said. “There are few examples that show as clearly how the rich elite is sacrificing present and future living conditions on this planet so they can maintain their extreme and violent lifestyles.”

Private jets are awful for the climate. It’s time to tax the rich who fly in them
Edward J Markey

If approved, the airport plans would result in an increase in non-weekday aircraft movements from 8,900 to 18,900 a year and would allow heavier aircraft to use the airport. Farnborough airport said its environmental footprint was “a fraction that of a traditional commercial airport” yet it served as one of the largest employment sites in the region.

Rushmoor borough council will consider the plans in March.

Todd Smith, a former airline pilot and an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, said: “Flying is the fastest way to fry the planet and private jets are the most polluting way to fly.

“Surely it’s a no-brainer to ban private jets and stop expanding these luxury airports in the midst of a climate crisis? Survey after survey, as well as several citizens’ assemblies, have shown this would be very popular and has widespread support from the general public.”

Sarah Hart, an office assistant from Farnborough, said: “As a local resident and a mum of two, I am utterly appalled at the airport’s plan to expand when we should be banning private flying completely. We need to be taking drastic steps to ensure a liveable world for all our children, not increasing our use in fossil fuels.”


A Farnborough airport spokesperson said the facility was an “important gateway for business aviation connectivity with the majority of flights being operated for business and corporate travel purposes”.

He said: “The airport’s environmental footprint is a fraction that of a traditional commercial airport, yet it serves as one of the largest employment sites in the region. We recognise the importance of continually reducing our environmental impact and we are only one of a small number of UK airports to have achieved level four-plus under the airport carbon accreditation programme.”


See earlier:

Farnborough Airport reveals plans to double flights at weekends and bank holidays

By Daniel Gee | Head of Content  (Woking News and Mail)
13th Sept 2023

Proposals to more than double weekend and bank holiday flights from Farnborough Airport, and raise the airport’s total cap from 50,000 to 70,000 flights a year, have gone out to public consultation.

Six public consultation drop-in events are scheduled from September 20 to 30 at five different locations. Farnham Maltings hosts a consultation drop-in from 4pm to 8pm on Thursday, September 21.

The key proposals are:

  • An increase to 70,000 flights a year, up from 50,000.
  • Weekend and bank holiday flights going up from 8,900 to 18,000.
  • Flights would be allowed an hour earlier and later on non-weekdays, from 8am to 8pm currently to 7am to 9pm.
  • Raising the restricted aircraft weight category from 50-80 tonnes, to 55-80 tonnes, allowing heavier aircraft to operate without restriction.

The airport’s expansion plans would mean a 40% per cent increase in flights overall – and an increase of up to 102 per cent at weekends and bank holidays.

Farnborough does not expect to reach the full capacities proposed until 2040. But an airport representative said: “It is essential we consult on these changes now so we can start to plan and invest for the long term.

“We need to find a balance between safeguarding and increasing the economic benefit of the airport versus its environmental impact.”

However, campaigners believe the consultation will be more of a “sales pitch” and Extinction Rebellion has urged people “not to believe the green-washing” as the Australian company that owns the airport, Macquarie, has been widely blamed for the crisis at Britain’s biggest water company, Thames Water.

Macquarie sold its final stake in Thames Water in 2017, leaving the utility company with a reported £2 billion debt burden said to have contributed to inadequate investment in infrastructure – and ultimately regular leaks of raw sewage into waterways.

Farnborough Airport claims it contributes £200 million to the local economy, supporting many thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly.

For more information and consultation dates, visit


Farnborough airport’s biggest critic silenced as expansion plans continue

UK’s busiest private jet airfield announced plans to double weekend flights weeks after campaign group chair received injunction

By Damien Gayle (Guardian)  @damiengayle
3 Jan 2024

For four years, Colin Shearn, a 62-year-old retired corporate executive, led the Farnborough Noise Group, a watchdog for locals worried about the operations of Farnborough airport, the UK’s busiest private jet airfield.

Then, one day in August, police came knocking at his door.

Shearn, they claimed in a 92-page document, had conducted an “aggressive and relentless campaign against Farnborough airport”. He was accused of “bombarding” the airport and relevant authorities “with endless questions about air traffic”, while “adopting a belligerent and aggressive style, distorting or misrepresenting a point of view to suit his agenda”.

With just seven days to prepare for a court hearing, he was unable to persuade a judge to deny Surrey police’s application for an antisocial behaviour injunction (asbi) – the successor to the much-derided asbo. He was ordered to stop “causing any harassment, alarm or distress, nuisance or annoyance to any person” in Surrey or Hampshire, or face jail or a fine, or both.

Three weeks later – just as Shearn, its chief critic, was silenced – Farnborough announced that it planned to double weekend flights.

Farnborough is the UK’s oldest aerodrome, and was the site of Britain’s first-ever powered flight. But for most of its 120-year history, it operated as a military and civil aviation research centre. Experimental jets ripped through the skies over Hampshire – but during daylight hours only, and not at all at weekends.

Then, 30 years ago, after the military deemed it surplus to requirements, the government agreed to Farnborough’s redevelopment for business aviation. Initially it began operations in 2000 with 28,000 flights a year, 2,500 of those at weekends and on bank holidays. In 2011, the government overruled the local councillors to increase the number of flights to 50,000 a year with 8,900 at weekends, but maintained weight limits that restricted heavier aircraft from using Farnborough.

Its latest planning application, submitted to Rushmoor borough council last week, gives the airport a ceiling of 70,000 flights a year, including 19,000 at weekends, and allows for heavier aircraft to use the airport.

Farnborough airport says the changes are necessary to meet increased demand for business trips. It claims its proposals will support 4,100 jobs and add £470m to the UK economy by 2040. And it insists its emissions are forecast to meet the UK’s net zero targets.

Many of the airport’s neighbours are sceptical. In October, at a community consultation event in Fleet, a Hampshire commuter town 45 minutes from London, Paul Whelan, from nearby Farnham, said his main concerns were about noise and pollution from the increased air traffic.

“I think some of these plans just sound like a bit much,” he said. “We have noticed a big increase in numbers [of flights]. We’ve lived in our house for the last 40 years. It really makes you look up.”

There are wider concerns. Just this summer, the government’s Climate Change Committee, which advises ministers on net zero goals, reiterated there should be no airport expansion until the aviation industry started to cut its CO2 emissions. Flying made up 7% of the UK’s total carbon emissions last year. And Farnborough’s critics say its emissions profile is particularly egregious.

Jules Crossley, a Rushmoor borough councillor, said: “The whole point of Farnborough’s expansion is to increase the cap on weekend flights.” She claimed that although the airport sold itself as a centre for business aviation, many of its flights were for leisure purposes, and were taken by a small number of wealthy people.

Her claim seems to be supported by research. A recent study by the campaign group Possible found that half of Farnborough flights in the busiest summer months headed to the Mediterranean, rather than business locations, while a quarter of winter flights headed for Alpine destinations. In September a service launched specifically to shuttle dogs and their owners to Dubai and back.

“Business aviation today, that just means private,” Crossley said. “It’s about the convenience of the customer profile, it’s not that every flight is for business reasons … It’s about facilitating the richest people to have a journey with the most convenience possible.”

It is an industry enjoying massive growth. One in 10 departures from UK airports are now private jet flights, according to Possible. Planes using Farnborough airport carry an average of only 2.5 passengers per plane and 40% of aircraft fly empty. This means that, per passenger mile, those passengers are 20–40 times more polluting than a passenger doing the same journey on a commercial flight.

A Farnborough airport spokesperson said flight numbers had increased over two decades due to market growth and displacement from other London airports, and insisted it was “at the forefront of sustainability” as “one of only three UK airports to be certified as level 4+ carbon neutral for those emissions in its direct control”.

The spokesperson conceded that many flights were for leisure, with increases to holiday destinations during the summer and winter holiday seasons, but insisted 80% in total were “either directly or indirectly related” to business matters.

“Whilst Farnborough airport’s emissions per passenger are approximately 10 times greater than those of a commercial airport, its economic output per passenger is substantially higher,” the spokesperson said. “This is consistent with the high proportion of business and corporate flights that use the airport.”

Shearn’s asbi has stopped him engaging directly with Farnborough airport and has forced him to step down as the chair of Farnborough Noise Group.

“I can’t challenge the Civil Aviation Authority any more,” Shearn said. “I can’t write to the CAA. I can’t write to the airport or the Farnborough Aerodrome Consultative Committee any more … It just limits everything I do. I can’t challenge anything, in case I upset or annoy anyone.”

His silencing has turned into a local scandal. Local newspapers have published reports on it, and a former police and crime commissioner for Surrey has written in support of him. Crossley, who also sits on the Farnborough Aerodrome Consultative Committee (FACC), told the Guardian she saw no reason for Shearn’s explicit ban from contacting the group.

“I was speaking to a longstanding member of the FACC … and he and I were agreeing that the other members of the FACC haven’t ever been consulted about this at all, and haven’t even been notified,” Crossley said.

“None of us see Colin as a nuisance. Everybody’s tempers can flare but I have never seen him lose his temper … He informs people. Sometimes there is disagreement about the information, because it is like a lot of science, some of it is not fixed.

“On the whole he’s very knowledgable and I think that frightens people.”