Last week, BAA failed to get a full injunction against 15 groups planning a protest camp near Heathrow campaign against proposed plans to increase airport traffic as well as building a third runway. They were only awarded partial containment rights on one action group, Plane Stupid, and were told to pay the costs of the other groups involved.
The protestors are claiming the law courts decision a major victory due to the extra publicity given to their
protest and are now expecting 1500 people to support the Climate Camp at its location near Staines.
Who are the people behind the protests?
Plane Stupid www.planestupid.com
Plane Stupid is a coalition of airport residents and environmentalists who use direct action against companies involved with airport expansion and aviation. Plane Stupid has been ordered not to enter Heathrow Airport and selected areas in its vicinity during the month of August. They call for airport expansion plans to be scrapped, an aviation fuel tax and an end to short haul flights.
Climate Camp www.climatecamp.org.uk
Climate Camp act as a rally point for groups seeking to increase awareness of environmental concerns. In 2006 the Climate Camp pitched in Yorkshire and was used as a base to protest against the UK's largest coal powered power station. Climate Camp chose Heathrow as a target for their protests in 2007 due to air travel's increased contribution to global warming and the planned Heathrow runway expansion.
Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise http://www.hacan.org.uk
An independent lobbying group which campaigns for quائeter, cleaner and safer conditions for residents living under Heathrow's flight paths.
Airport Watch www.airportwatch.org.uk
A movement which unites several national environmental organizations and airport community groups opposed to the Governments Aviation White Paper 2003, that called for expansion of the UK's air travel potential.
No Third Runway Action Group www.notrag.org
NoTRAG is a residents' organization in the London Borough of Hillingdon, which is opposed to the building of the third Heathrow Airport runway. They oppose the runway as its construction will destroy the village of Sipson, as well as part of Harmondsworth and Harlington. They estimate 700 homes at least will be destroyed in the runways path.
Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer is supporting the right for Plane Stupid to protest, if not directly the protest itself.
Why are these groups campaigning?
Air travel is a growth industry in the UK; aviation now accounts for 1.2% of national GDP. One third of UK exports now go by air, doubling since 1990. UK residents make around 60 million visits overseas each year, compared to just 13 million in 1978.
It is estimated that half the population of the UK now flies at least once a year, and these trends are set to continue as the number of cheap flights available increments via the internet.
The reasons for concern are demonstrated by less inspiring statistics: air-travel is expected to contribute 17% of UK greenhouse gases this year. If current trends are to continue that figure could be 50% by 2050. Should this prove correct, it could mean that the UK's commitments to reducing carbon emissions under the Kyoto agreement would be impossible to honor.
There is also a general distrust of aviation planners that even the current expansion plans may not be enough; the current plans for a third runway were categorically denied just a few years before the project was put back on the table.
Mike Roberts, Managing Director of Heathrow Airport Ltd (owned by BAA) sent a letter to local residents claiming that Terminal 5 was to be the last project required for Heathrow Airport.
"I'd like to reassure you", he stated in March 2003, "that [the Airport] will NOT require another runway or an increase in night flights."
The Aviation White Paper 2003 was a government study looking at how to deal with UK aviation in the next 30 years. It called for massive investment in constructing runways and airports to meet expected demand. The paper was examined by the Environmental Audit Committee ,aired by Conservative MP Tim Yeo. They found that carrying out the plans would see UK aviation increased by the equivalent of a new Heathrow every five years.
It is feared by the Climate Camp campaigners that as more airports are created, more air travel will be encouraged, in a similar way that building more roads creates more traffic. As increasing passenger numbers help reduce the overall price of air travel tickets, more people will take more airline trips. This trend will be unsustainable in the long term with the damage to the environment that air travel creates; it is also thought that due to the air travel exhaust being released directly in the atmosphere it has double the effect of carbon emissions on the ground.
How can I help if I wish to?
Climate Camp will not solve the problem on its own; it can only raise awareness of the environmental issues so that people are convinced to change their lifestyles. Over 45% of UK short haul flights for example are for less than 500km; cutting down on these flights and taking the train instead can help in the long term.
It may even be a quicker mode of travel; a race was held recently on the 16th June, the European Day of Action on Aviation. Two sets of contestants stripped from London Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower using train and air travel; the couple on the train reached Eiffel tower 3 hours before those using plane (and had a significantly lower carbon footprint)
What response is the protest getting?
Despite popular support, the protest may have been ruled illegal, despite its non violent ethos. There is a trend in legislation that is eroding people's right to protest against government policy; anti-terrorism and anti-stalking laws were used this year to try and limit Climate Camp's peaceful protest.
The 1997 Protection from Harassment Act amended by the 2005 Serious Organized Crime and Police Act, states that harassment is defined as:
"to persuade any person … not to do something that he is entitled or required to do … to do something that he is not under any obligation to do …. alarming the person or causing the person distress".
No definition of alarm or distress is given. This could potentially put a 5 year jail term on anyone who protests against any company or individual actions that disagree with, a departure from the original spirit of the law that was intended to stop stalkers harassment women.
Had Heathrow Airport Ltd succeeded they could have paid five million people from the Piccadilly Line, large sections of the M4 and land surrounding Heathrow including the airport itself.