01 June 2008

Heathrow third runway: Thousands join protest

By Olga Craig
The Telegraph - 01/06/2008
Original URL

Heathrow third runway: Thousands join protest

Thousands of demonstrators have taken part in a carnival-style protest against the proposed expansion of Heathrow, the world's busiest airport. (PA)

Thousands of protestors have joined a carnival-style protest on the Heathrow perimeter fence against the planned third runway

Climate change, increasing noise pollution and congestion have united environmental groups and more than 20 councils against the government-backed BAA plan for a third runway and a sixth terminal.

More than 3,000 turned out for what was dubbed the Make A Noise Carnival, walking from Hatton Cross in west London to Sipson, the village that will be obliterated if the planned third runway goes ahead.

The mood was jocular and good humoured, despite the strong feelings the proposed expansion has evoked.

In a village field, as bands played, the protestors gathered to form a huge NO, which they expected to be visible from passing aircraft.

Many came in fancy dress and on stilts and paraded behind brass bands.

John Stewart, chairman of Heathrow anti-noise and anti-expansion group Hacan said: "Heathrow has never before seen a spectacle like this. Coaches have come from as far away as Manchester and Southampton and we have been joined by campaigners from Athens in Greece. Heathrow has become a symbol of worldwide resistance against aggressive airport expansion."

Tamsin Ormond, who recently scaled the roof of parliament in protest at the proposals and helped organise the event, told a cheering crowd: "Gordon Brown has a real fight on his hands here.

"People face losing their homes if he gives the green light to a third runway, and they'll be joined tomorrow by thousands of others who are deeply concerned about increased noise levels and climate change. That's why we are using our bodies to form a NO so big it will be visible from planes circling Heathrow. The mood in west London is pretty angry right now."

The event was backed by environmental campaign group Greenpeace. Its director, John Sauven, who joined the march, said: "There is no need whatsoever for a third runway. If everybody took trains to Manchester, Paris, Scotland and Brussels rather than flying then a third runway would not need to be built.

"Now it's about the campaign gathering weight before the MPs break for summer – and it is. We've had support from the Archbishop of Canterbury and all of the London mayoral candidates."

In a reference to the violent clashes between police and protesters at last year's Climate Camp demonstrations, Mr Sauven said: "Greenpeace is a non-violent organisation and this is a peaceful protest. It's a real carnival atmosphere with children and local communities getting involved."

Although the Archbishop was unable to attend, he sent a message of support to the protesters.

"Christians, like all people of faith, believe that human beings are on Earth as stewards of God's creation," he told them. "As such we have a responsibility, both to God and to generations to come, to ensure that this remains a sustainable world.

"Concern for our environment is a clear imperative arising from the respect we owe to creation and to each other. So questions of airport expansion, like all developments that risk increasing the damage we do to our global environment – which still impacts hardest on the poorest – cannot be considered uncritically, or in a morality-free zone."

Last week the sustainable development commission, the government's independent adviser on the environment, recommended that Heathrow expansion plans should be frozen. The report was dismissed by the Department for Transport. A fomal decision on the runway is expected to be announced by the transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, in the next two months.

If the third runway does go ahead, the number of flights is expected to increase by nearly 40 per cent, from 480,000 a year now to more than 700,000.

Last night Lord Soley, campaign director of pro-expansion group Future Heathrow, said: "There is no doubting the strong views that some people hold against Heathrow's expansion. However, opinion polls continue to show that most local people support a third runway.

"Local people know that the airport is vital to the local economy and supports jobs and businesses. A third runway will only go ahead within environmental limits on noise and air quality. Airlines will only be able to fly more planes from Heathrow if they buy cleaner and quieter aircraft."

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008.

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