Posts Tagged ‘Heathrow’

Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid!

Monday, April 12th, 2021

On a day when some of our Covid restrictions are being eased and when more people are apparently thinking about overseas holidays, it’s perhaps appropriate to think about the impact of flying on the future of our planet and the need to curb the exponential growth of air travel, particularly by the increasing number of ‘frequent flyers’. Personally I signed the Flight Free UK pledge not to fly in 2020 – and events later made that easy to keep – and I’ve signed up again for 2021.

Back in April 12th 2015 I spent a pleasant day in Harmondsworth, where a day of action was taking place against the revived plans for a third long runway for Heathrow Airport. A few years earlier I’d covered the local celebrations in neighbouring Sipson after building the third runway had been ruled out because of its environmental impact.

Of course nothing has changed to lessen that environmental impact, but years of continued lobbying on a grand scale, including setting up a fake PR organisation with spurious surveys – and a short-sighted and biased commission to expand aviation in the UK led the government to put the runway back on the table again, despite the growing awareness of the need to urgently tackle the environmental crisis which the planet is currently rushing headlong into.

Harmondsworth is one of the Middlesex villages surrounding what in pre-war days had been the village of Heath Row, full of orchards and market gardens, that I cycled around in my youth in the 1950s, when the airport was smaller and less obtrusive with many less flights and those mainly be smaller and quieter aircraft. Back then it was possible to enjoy the peace and quiet and largely rural nature of the area, even in those places such as Longford and Colnbrook directly under the flightpath. Although the Comet began to change things so far as noise was concerned it was only really around 1960 with the widespread use of the Boeing 707 that peace was definitively shattered.

Harmondsworth is still very much a village, a small place on the edge of the River Colne, with no through traffic in its centre which has a small village green, two pubs, a fine church and the Grade I listed Great Barn, the largest medieval barn in England to have survived largely and remarkably intact – and was recently saved from dereliction by a local campaign which led to its purchase and restoration by English Heritage in 2011.

It was good to be able to visit the barn again – volunteers now keep it open on selected days – and to be able to wander through what John Betjeman described as “The Cathedral of Middlesex”. Later the Datchet Border Morris performed in the barn, and also outside the pub and in the recreation ground where a tree was planted. The Morris dancers I think give a greater sense of its scale.

Local politicians including John McDonnell who has been the area’s MP since 1997, but also all but one of the candidates (except one) standing for the seat in the then forthcoming election came along to speak at the rally on the airport’s proposed new boundary, just a few yards south of the village green – and including most of the housing in the village.

The one missing candidate also supported the rally and opposed airport expansion but there had been a mix-up over dates which made him miss the event. As Labour, the UKIP, Green and Conservative candidates all spoke to oppose any airport expansion, as did several local residents, and campaigner John Stewart of HACAN, and the five polar bears who had recently protested inside one of the Heathrow terminals came along with their banner ‘Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid‘.

Heathrow Villages fight for survival


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


2015: Grow Heathrow at Five

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

On 28th February 2015, Grow Heathrow, a non-hierarchical free community in an occupied derelict nursery at Sipson, just north of Heathrow Airport celebrated 5 years with open workshops and a party.

It had been set up as a symbol of community resistance to the economic, ecological and democratic crises and to oppose the increasing development of the aviation industry and Heathrow, at a time when local residents, myself included, were protesting against the building of a “third runway” to the north of the current airport.

Local protests had begun back in 2003, and by the time squatters occupied the long-abandoned market garden victory on the specific issue of the new runway seemed more or less assured. Transition Heathrow’s ‘Grow Heathrow’ had longer term and more far reaching goals, hoping to create more sustainable and resilient Heathrow villages after the dropping of the third runway and more widely to build long-term infrastructure and networks to deal with peak oil and the threat of climate change. On their site they set out to demonstrate how we could live differently, ‘off grid’ and with a different and cooperative lifestyle.

I wasn’t particularly closely involved with Grow Heathrow, though I visited the site a number of times for various events, as well as taking part in the local protests and events at the nearby Greenpeace ‘Airplot’, where I was one of the 91,000 of beneficial owners of a very small area of land. It’s an area I knew from my youth, when I often cycled through Sipson ,Harmondsworth, Longford, Horton and Colnbrook.

Grow Heathrow weathered a number of legal battles to stay in occupation, but were evicted from the front half of the site where most of these celebrations took place two years ago at the end of February 2019 after around 9 years of occupation and growth. I’ve not visited since the eviction but so far as I am aware there are still some residents on the back part of the site – which had a different owner, but visits have not been possible since the start of the pandemic.

The project was an important one and brought together many people from different backgrounds, including local residents and international visitors, some who stayed for months and years. Among those who came to the 5th birthday party to join the celebrations and speak were local MP John McDonnell, Tristram Stuart, a pioneer of the radical food movement with his 2009 book on food waste, anthropology professor David Graeber and activist Ewa Jasiewicz.

Grow Heathrow was an inspiration to many, though some of us were unable to envisage its rather spartan lifestyle for ourselves there were lessons that could be learnt in particular from its involvement with the wider community. Heathrow expansion is back on the agenda today, though it is hard to believe it will go ahead given the growing realisation of the vital importance of the climate crisis. Aviation as we know it is incompatible with the kind of Green future our government now plays lip-service too – and will need putting into action for civilisation to survive.

Many more pictures at Grow Heathrow’s 5th Birthday.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Oct 1 2016: Heathrow Climate Die-in

Thursday, October 1st, 2020
The die-in begins

I’m not a great fan of Prince Charles – or any royalty who I think are all parasites whose ancestors stole the land from the people and are still fleecing us in various ways – but I had to agree with him when a few days ago he called for a ‘Marshall-like plan’ to combat climate change, which he warned will “dwarf” the impact of coronavirus, with potentially devastating consequences. Perhaps he was still rather underplaying the danger we all face, but if he and David Attenborough were ever to come to power we might just see a shift in our establishment and government that could at least alleviate some of the more disastrous effects of global heating.

Protesters wait with travellers in the Departures lounge

But I’m not optimistic. Averting catastrophe will require drastic changes in our economic structures and ways of life which will impact the highest polluters most – and that “1%” are those who currently run most of the world to feed their ever-unsatiated greed. The rich are the rich because they have always put themselves first, and have never given up their advantages without a fight – and have always been able to afford the better arms and armies.

One thing that will have to change is aviation. Flights by a relatively small proportion of people make a ridiculous contribution to greenhouse gases – not just by weekend private jet flights to Perugia but much more by ‘frequent fliers’ on regular services. But it isn’t just the emissions from burning fossil fuel in flights, but the huge amounts of energy and materials in making planes and airport infrastructure which present a problem, as well as the effects of global freight leading to deforestation and other environmental problems around the world. Even if hydrogen-fuelled aircraft were to remove most of the pollution problems of actual flights the aviation industry will remain a climate threat.

Some had aprons with messages and read out information and there were speeches

Back in 2010 I was with local campaigners celebrating the cancellation of plans to expand Heathrow by building an extra ‘third’ runway. But lobbying by the aviation industry and a deliberately short-sighted ‘Davies Report’ put it back as government policy in 2016, though in 2020 a judicial review ruled that the government’s decision to proceed with building the third runway were unlawful as they had failed to take into account the government’s commitments to combat climate change.

The protest inside Heathrow’s Terminal 2 took place as the government were preparing to back building the third runway again in 2016 and was organised by Reclaim The Power. It was a part of a global wave of resistance to airport expansion on environmental and social grounds, and took the form of a ‘flash mob’ with a well choreographed event, beginning with a die-in over which frequent fliers stepping over their dead bodies and luggage to a champagne fast track check-in desk, followed by songs and dances.’ There were other protests at Gatwick and in Austria, France, Mexico, Turkey and elsewhere.

A protester dressed as a frequent flyer steps through the die-in

I just a just a little nervous anticipation beforehand about photographing the event, which was taking place in a privately owned space, though one open to the public, but airport security made no attempt to stop me or the protesters other than keeping us outside the security zone. I think the organisers had made clear to them that they were not attempting to greatly disrupt the airport and would not be causing any damage.

‘Frequent flyers’ party

Outside the airport where 150 cyclists were protesting things were a little different, with police over-reacting hugely to a relatively minor protest, shutting down roads across a large area for several hours. They turned what would have been hardly noticeable to travellers in the area into a major incident.

Many more pictures from the protest inside Terminal 2 at Heathrow flashmob against airport expansion.

Cycling and health

Friday, July 31st, 2020
M3 from Sheep Walk, Shepperton

Every weekday for the past few months I’ve been having breakfast, washing and then getting on my bike for some exercise, riding around ten miles. I take a camera with me and sometimes stop a few times to take pictures which does slow me down a little. I don’t have Lycra and the roads around here are in pretty poor condition, and I sometimes ride on some rough paths, so my progress isn’t that fast, and the rides generally take me 40-50 minutes – an overall speed of 15-12 mph. The pictures here were taken on my rides in the first week of July.

At the start I of these rides was very short of breath, and thankful that this part of South-West Middlesex is extremely flat – one reason for siting Heathrow here. Even now, 4 months after I was ill in March, hills are still a problem if I ride across the river into neighbouring Surrey, though I’m now having to stop and rest fewer times on the way up. But I can now ride up the slopes to cross the motorways or railways without much difficulty.

Cottage, Moor Lane, Yeoveney

At the start the empty roads (apart from the many potholes and cracks) were bliss, but I arrived home exhausted. Now traffic even on the relatively quiet roads I mainly ride is something of a pain but I’ve got fitter and while I’m a little tired when I get home I’m not on my last legs. Cycling has definitely improved my fitness, but I haven’t lost a single pound.

So while I’m pleased that the government is encouraging cycling, and I’m sure it will improve people’s fitness I don’t know that it will actually do much to reduce obesity. Nor am I sure that they are going about getting more people on their bikes in the right way with gimmicks like the repair vouchers and prescriptions. They need to divert much more of the money going into roads into making roads safer so more people feel able to ride on them. As well as providing separate cycle paths where possible this also needs special attention to the edges of roads, the roughly 2m in which cyclists normally ride and which currently are usually in even worse condition than the rest of the roads.

River Thames, Shepperton

It also needs the kind of changes currently being proposed to the Highway Code, which prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable on our roads, pedestrians, then cyclists and then the various other categories of road users. You can contribute to the consultation on this until 11.59pm on 27th October 2020.

I don’t think cycling has a great deal to offer in combating obesity. Cycling is such an efficient process that it uses relatively little energy, and isn’t a very good way to lose weight. Jogging would be better though I find it far too boring.

Lord Knyvett’s Schoolhouse, Stanwell

Obesity is now of course not to do with actually being obese but defined by the WHO for adults as having a BMI of 30 or greater. BMI is a useful but very crude measure, which only takes body mass and height into consideration.

I think I am as fit or fitter than my wife, but in terms of BMI I come out slightly overweight and she appears slightly underweight, a difference of around 9 or 10 in BMI. We eat more or less the same diet and roughly similar quantities. I think the difference in BMI is at least partly if not largely accounted for by the width of our frames. This is reflected in the width across the shoulders – mine being roughly 1.3 times wider., much greater than the 1.09 difference in our heights.

River Colne, Stanwell Moor

The BMI formula, BMI = weight(kg)/height(m)^2 seemed conceptually wrong to the Belgian scientist Quetelet, who first put it forward around 1840, as mass is essentially a three-dimensional property, and so we might expect it to correspond to the third power of height, but that doesn’t give sensible results. The square was adopted for fully grown adults and in order to give roughly acceptable results for the population as a whole, but Quetelet actually pointed out it should not be applied to individuals.

Seven years ago Professor L N Trefethen FRS, Professor of Numerical Analysis, University of Oxford, proposed a revised BMI to make a “better approximation to the actual sizes and shapes of healthy bodies” and it does cut down the difference between Linda and me slightly, bringing her just into the normal range. The differences it makes are rather small, but given the blind reliance we sometimes see on BMI important. Trefethen suggested using instead of the square the power 2.5 of height and points out that Quetelet had found that “during development the squares of the weight at different ages are as the fifth powers of the height” while suggesting the use of the square for fully grown adults. At the time it was certainly much easier to calculate a square, though now calculators and computers make fractional powers easy to use.

Duke of Northumberland’s River and Heathrow

It probably doesn’t matter if we regard BMI as a very rough measure, but does when it comes to setting out charts and and applying them to individuals. If your BMI is 26, you may actually be normal, while if it is 25 you could be overweight whatever the chart says, but it would be too inconvenient to give, for example, a BMI of 26 +/- 3 which would probably be rather more accurate a reflection. It would be more useful for individuals if we could find a more sophisticated formula that gave a clearer indication.

There is of course another equally simplistic but probably more reliable measure that can be applied to individuals to determine obesity. It’s called a tape measure. If you are a man with a waist of over 40 inches (102cm) then you are almost certainly obese.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Another ride

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
Former pub – The Swan, Moor Lane, Staines

Rain began just as I walked out of the door to go on a cycle ride on Tuesday. I’d looked at the weather forecast a few minutes earlier and it had looked as if I might manage my ten miles of exercise before it started, but it had come earlier. I could ride in the rain, but as it was forecast to set in for several hours and get heavier I turned around and came back inside. Perhaps, I thought, it would be better to ride in the afternoon.

Signs used for target practice

It’s a while since I wrote about my cycle rides, perhaps because they are not very exciting. I’ve settled into a pattern, riding – weather and other commitments permitting – five days a week, Monday to Friday, along nine different routes in turn, all around ten miles. Saturdays I rest and Sundays usually walk with my wife for an hour or two. There is some overlap between the routes, with only a choice of two ways I leave home and relatively few ways to escape the immediate area, but the routes provide some variety.

Wraysbury River – a distributary of the Colne

Working out and riding these routes has taken me to a few parts of the local area I’ve never visited before, or at least not for many years. I’ve lived most of my life around here, and in my young days when not at school lived most of the time on a bike, either with friends or on my own. Things have of course changed a little since the 1950s, particularly around Heathrow and with the building of the M25, M3 and M4 in the area.

Wraysbury River, M25 and Wraysbury Reservoir

When I started riding for exercise back in March it was rather more like the old days so far as traffic was concerned, with few cars and lorries on most streets. Now traffic has returned to pre-virus levels and although most of my routes are mainly along minor roads, cycling has become rather less pleasant, though fortunately most of the routes involve some traffic-free sections. But if we want more people to take to bikes we need more and better cycle routes and a considerable driver education programme about safe passing distances.

Another ‘The Swan’ in Stanwell

I’m finding cycling ten miles has become less exhausting over the months, mainly I think because my breathing has improved. I still have a bit of a problem with hills, but last time I got up the only long hill on all these routes with only one stop to wait until I stopped gasping – and that quite close to the top. I’m no longer finding railway and motorway bridges – the main hills on most of my routes – so much of a challenge.

Duke of Northumberland’s River and Heathrow Perimeter road

The pictures with this post are all from a ride I made on 5th June, going north from Staines and a little along the south side of Heathrow before returning. Part of it is along one of the country lanes I often rode around 60 years ago, but is now a series of dead ends and short sections with some heavy traffic. It used to be a quiet route from Bedfont to Datchet and Windsor. In earlier years my father would ride along it before turning north through the orchards to the pleasant hamlet of Heathrow, now the site of Terminals 1,2 and 3.

Swans on nest, Longford River, Stanwell

Both rivers have been diverted for the airport, but here the Longford River (aka Queen’s or Cardinal’s River) still follows its original course, while the Duke of Northumberland’s River used to run around 600 metres to the north. Both are artificial streams cut to take water from the Colne, the Longford in 1638/39 to supply water to Bushy Park and Hampton Court and the Duke of Northumberland’s river around 1530 to provide a consistent power supply for the flour mill at Isleworth.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.