Posts Tagged ‘Heathrow’

End Indefinite Detention, Don’t Sack Cleaners

Saturday, May 7th, 2022

End Indefinite Detention, Don’t Sack Cleaners – two protests I photographed on Saturday 7th May 2016, one on the edge of London and the other in the centre.


Detention Centres Shut Them Down – Harmondsworth, Saturday 7th May 2016

Mostly protests begin later than expected and I was surprised when I arrived at Europe’s largest detention centre complex at Heathrow, two Category B prisons, Colnbrook & Harmondsworth, managed by private security company MITIE to find that the action organised by the Anti Raids Network as a part of a day of action at all UK detention centres had already begun.

Most of the protesters had come out to the protest on the west edge of Greater London from the centre and had apparently got there earlier than they expected and had immediately rushed past the few security guards onto the private roadway between the two prisons to communicate with the detainees who had gathered around the windows of the two blocks behind their 20 ft high fences. I’d photographed earlier protests here where the protesters had walked noisily around the Harmondsworth block (strangely on the Colnbrook side of the complex) on the rough track around the fence, but the centre was now under new management and MITIE were determined to keep them further away.

As I arrived and talked with the small group who had remained at the entrance those inside appeared at the far end of the road, being slowly moved out by the police reinforcements who had arrived shortly before me, and I followed protesters down the road to join them.

As well as making a lot of noise with pots and pans, megaphones and kicking the solid metal bottom of the fence, the protesters also held up a large banner with a phone number so that the detainees could contact them and tell them what was happening inside. At first the police made slow progress in moving them along, but soon another police van arrived with more officers and they were able to move them quickly to the front of the complex.

After regrouping there, most decided to walk along to the public footpath that runs along the east edge of the centre. Although bushes and small trees in front of the fence made the centre almost invisible, it was easy to hear the detainees shouting from inside and for them to hear the protest. Soon phone contact was made with some of them and they were able to speak over a megaphone. As I wrote back in 2016:

“Bashir from Lebanon told us he had been held in detention for 18 months and that his wife and children need his help, but he is stuck inside, unable to see them or do anything. Indefinite detention such as this seems a clear breach of so many of the human rights that everyone in the UK should be entitled to under our Human Rights Act 1998. Treating people like our system does is simply shameful.”

Detention Centres Shut Them Down – where there is more about the protest.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre – Barbican, London, Saturday 7th May 2016

I left to make my way to central London where Cleaners union United Voices of the World were holding a flashmob at the Barbican Centre after cleaning contractor Servest proposed making many of the cleaners redundant or severely cutting their hours and pay. As well as the UVW, the action was supported by activists from the Bakers Union, Class War, SOAS Unison, Unite Hotel workers branch and IWGB Couriers branch.

I met the cleaners close to Moorgate Station and walked with them towards the Barbican, where they burst into a run as they turned a corner and rushed into the main entrance, past a couple of security guards who had no chance of stopping the unexpected arrival. They made there way to the middle of the arts centre, to protest noisily outside the hall where customers were entering a sold-out concert of music by Yann Tiersen.

After a few minutes police arrived and told the protesters they must leave or be arrested, and after some argument they slowly and noisily made their way back towards the main entrance, with police continuing to harass them.

They continued to protest on the street outside the main entrance, and the protest was still continuing there when I left for home.

More on My London Diary at Cleaners invade Barbican Centre.


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Harmondsworth – A Middlesex Village

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Harmondsworth – A Middlesex Village

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

Going back to Harmondsworth feels very much like going back to my childhood as I grew up only a few miles away and lived for years on a bicycle cycling out from Hounslow and along country lanes through villages like this on the edges of London, before the M25 and M4 chopped up the country around here and the growing airport at Heathrow produced both sprawling new housing estates and a huge increase in traffic in the area.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

From 2003 to 2009 I took part in the protests against the plans to build another huge runway for Heathrow, which now only uses two though it was built with more on its existing site. The shorter runways were abandoned partly because planes grew larger. I was very pleased when one closed as on the few days a year when there were strong cross-winds it brought planes at low heights over my current home a couple of miles away, sometimes low enough to shake the whole building. I think building Terminal 4 which opened in 1986 put an end to its use.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village
A mural across where the airport would end

We celebrated in 2009 when plans for a third runway were dropped, but the lobbyists for Heathrow expansion didn’t take no for an answer and persuaded the coalition government to set up the Davis Commission to put the plans back on the table again. The protest in Harmondsworth on Sunday 12th April 2015 was before the report came out, but its conclusion was predictable – and the one it had been set up to come to.

John Stewart of HACAN

Since then and the government’s acceptance of the case it made for expanding Heathrow, the world has changed, or at least our understanding of the future has. The case for airport expansion has disappeared and we now know that we have to have rapid decarbonisation of the economy to survive. Instead of looking forward to exponential growth we need to find ways to stabilise and reduce demand and aviation is one of the most climate-damaging sectors.

While Davis took as its basis that expansion is necessary to continue growth, it is now clear that expansion would be a disaster. At last I think that message is beginning to get through to our government, though too often it is still thinking in terms of short-term financial benefits to the pockets of its members and their friends.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

Harmondsworth is still one of the most interesting of the small villages on the fringes of London, with a fine church in its churchyard, and although its village green is a pocket handkerchief compared to many it still has a couple of pubs and some picturesque cottages along its north side. But the real gem of the village is tucked away immediately to the left, its magnificent Grade 1 listed Great Barn, built in 1426 , the largest surviving example all-timber barn which Sir John Betjeman called ‘the Cathedral of Middlesex’.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

In agricultural use until the 1980s, it was then allowed to decay until a public campaign strongly supported by the local MP John McDonnell persuaded English Heritage to take it over in 2012. They carried out a substantial restoration leading to it being re-opened to the public free of charge on selected days and it is managed by the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth. My pictures of the barn are not available for any editorial or commercial use.

On the 12th April 2015, the Datchet Border Morris were dancing inside the barn and around the village green during the day. The campaign to save the village (again!) was launched with a huge mural and speeches from all but one of the candidates standing for the area in the general election the following month. The Lib-Dem candidate also supported the campaign but had been sent the wrong date for the rally. Also present were campaigner John Stewart of HACAN, and five polar bears who had held a protest a few weeks earlier with the banner ‘Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid‘.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

The weather was fine and it was an interesting day – and warm enough for me to sit outside and eat a quick lunch in the garden of the Five Bells, before rushing to photograph the Morris performing again outside The Crown. And before leaving for home I went to take another look around the interior of the parish church, parts of which date from the 12th century.

More at Heathrow Villages fight for survival.


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Stop Heathrow Expansion – Nov 2016

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Post COP26 and the various official reports on the climate crisis it should now be clear to everyone that we need not to increase air traffic but to drastically reduce it if we are to succeed in limiting the global temperature rise even to the highly damaging level of 1.5 degrees Celsius. But still those with large financial interests in aviation are wanting to continue with the expansion of aviation despite its contribution to ruining the world.

The environmental case against Heathrow expansion was clearly won when plans were dropped after years of campaigning against a third runway over the first decade of this century, but despite this our government was persuaded by the industry to change its policies and put the expansion back on the table.

The case against Heathrow is of course even stronger than the case against air travel and air freight generally because of the location of the airport in the west of London. It was always in the wrong place, too close to the city centre and on the wrong side, with prevailing winds meaning aircraft approached over the city and the pollution from them being blown into it. Possibly even those who planned it during WW2 realised this when they avoided any real public debate by pretending the airport was needed for military use.

John Stewart of HACAN

Back in the fifties when I grew up under the flightpath it was less of a nuisance as planes then were smaller and quieter, though we did on several occasions find small parts from them dropped in our garden but fortunately hitting nobody. But over the years noisier aircraft and more frequent landings have made things much worse – though fortunately I’ve moved to a quieter zone but still near Heathrow. The pollution is still with us, not just from the airport itself but also from the road traffic and congestion it generates in the motorways and roads around.

On Saturday 19th November I went to Richmond Green for a rally organised to support Zac Goldsmith who resigned to stand as an anti-Heathrow expansion candidate and supported by Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Teddington Action Group, SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), Residents Against Aircraft Noise (RAAN), Chiswick Against the Third Runway and others campaigning against the noise, pollution and catastrophic climate change the third runway and expansion of aviation would cause.

Harmondsworth campaigner Neil Keveren at Richmond

It was perhaps a strange decision by Goldsmith, as both Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates who he was standing against were also strongly opposed to another Heathrow runway, and many locals, particularly members of the Lib-Dems and Green Party were still aggreived at Goldsmith having taken the seat in 2010 from one of the most active campaigners against Heathrow expansion, Susan Kramer. But Goldsmith had resigned as a matter of principle when the government reneged on earlier promises and approved construction of the third runway the month before this protest. Goldsmith lost the election by a fairly narrow margin to the Lib-Dem candidate. Both Kramer and Goldsmith now sit in the House of Lords.

On the Bath Road overlooking the airport at Sipson

It was a strange protest too, though many of the real Heathrow campaigners were there and some spoke, and I was harassed by a member of Goldsmith’s team who followed me around and tried to stand in my way while taking pictures, telling me it was a private meeting. Eventually I had to ask a police officer to speak to him and get him to stop.

Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion

I left as speakers from various West London boroughs where coming to the microphone to make clear their opposition to Heathow expansion to rush to another protest on the issue on the Bath Road overlooking the airport. This was a ‘family friendly’ rally taking place at the same time as a short distance away Rising Up activists were blocking the link from the M4 into the airport – and police stopped me from going to photograph them.

There was a large crowd of police at this peaceful and legal protest as well, although it seemed totally unnecessary; as I commented “it did seem a considerable waste of police resources, perhaps an attempt to intimidate the protesters. The police did behave in a friendly manner, though they did restrict the movement of protesters to an unnecessary extent.”

Environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy

I had already heard several of the speakers earlier at Richmond, though Goldsmith and his Conservative supporters had not travelled here but were presumably busy campaigning in Richmond.

Harmondsworth resident Neil Keveren of Stop Heathrow Expansion speaks at Heathrow

Here are the final three paragraphs of the acrount I wrote back then, still appropriate:

The main concerns of speakers were that expansion at Heathrow will cause the UK to break its own national laws to reduce emissions, as well as undermining the international climate commitments agreed in Paris, and that the new runway will devastate local communities with families losing their homes and many over a wider area suffering dangerous levels of air pollution. The construction of a new runway would create enormous problems across the area around the airport, and if completed would bring chaos to an already overstressed transport system in the whole region.

We need to totally rethink the aviation industry and evaluate the contribution it makes to our economy, and to remove its privileged status and subsidies which currently allow it to expand and pollute for the benefit of its shareholders and the convenience of rich frequent flyers. The industry greatly inflates the contribution it makes to the economy while refusing to acknowledge the many problems it creates.

Of course it isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. We don’t just need to stop airport expansion, but to reassess much of they way we live. We need System Change if we are to avoid the disastrous effects of Climate Change.

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion


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Deaf & Disabled March & a Harvest Festival

Sunday, September 26th, 2021

Saturday 26th September 2015 wasn’t one of my busiest Saturdays, but the two events I photographed were very different, and took place some distance apart. The first was in the centre of London, at Westminster and was a protest over the discrimination by the Tory government against disabled people.

It was clear from the start of the coalition government that came to power in 2010 that the Tories were out to target the disabled, and that they saw them and the benefits they were getting as a drain on our taxes they were keen to diminish. They declared that cuts in government spending were essential, blaming the previous New Labour government for the results of the world-wide banking crash which in reality was caused by the exploitation of an unstable system by greedy bankers and using this as an excuse for largely counter-productive austerity.

Looking at ways to make cuts, they picked on the disabled as they thought they would be an easy target and could bring large savings. But the disabled have turned out far more resilient than they expected, with groups like Disabled People Against Cuts turning out to be formidable opponents and getting considerable public support.

This particular protest was over the the cutting of the DWP’s Access to Work scheme which enables disabled people to work on an equal basis to non-disabled people. They want to work and have careers and to make a contribution to society, but cutting this essential support will prevent them doing so. And as the protesters pointed out, every £1 spent on Access to Work results in a return of £1.48.

Local resident Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion points at the Heathrow plan

A long tube journey, changing to go almost to the edge of London on the Piccadilly line and then catch a bus to Sipson took me to Grow Heathrow in Sipson. It was a reminder that although London once led the world with its Underground system, it has failed to keep up with the times and now so many other cities have more modern and faster systems. When I first went to Paris we used to laugh at the quaint Metro clattering slowly and noisily around under the city, but now Parisians used to the RER must enjoy at least a little smile at our creaking system – and perhaps gloat that some of their system is now financed by the profits from Londoners using RATP run buses. Germans too profit as DB Arriva run the Overground as well as buses as well as three rail franchises.

Grow Heathrow was celebrating another harvest at their occupied nursery site with ‘music, pumpkins and pizza’ as well as an open ‘No Third Runway!’ discussion. They had squatted the derelict site in 2010 and five years later were still resisiting eviction with their court case then adjourned until the following summer. Half the site was evicted in 2019 but the rest continued until the final eviction in March 2021.

I was late (thanks to that slow journey) for the start of the discussion on Heathrow, but got there in time to hear much of it and take pictures – and as a fairly local long-term resident to make a very small contribution to the debate led by John Stewart of HACAN and other campaigners including Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion and Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid. I grew up under the flightpath a couple of miles from touchdown and have lived the last 47 years a similar distance from the airport. Established by deception it has long been clear the airport is in the wrong place, and now even clearer that we can’t continue expanding air transport if we want to avoid climate catastrophe.

It is hard to take the government’s environmental policies seriously when they continue to support the expansion of air travel and transport and plans for another runway at Heathrow. We should be looking urgently at ways to cut our dependence on air freight and reduce travel, as well as ways to reduce the carbon emissions involved in the lower amount that will continue. This is one of the government policies that seriously undermines its national and international credibility at the forthcoming COP26 climate talks.

Grow Heathrow showed how people could live in different ways and evolve stronger communities and more democratic systems, although few would want to live as ‘off-grid’ in the rather spartan conditions of the residents here. But although we might not all want to make our own charcoal, nor go back to running vehicles on it, producing biochar is one of the few practical methods currently feasible of carbon capture and storage.

Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival
Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest


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Grow Heathrow Open Day 2012

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

A bike-powered smoothie maker

Transition Heathrow had moved onto the disused market garden site in Sipson immediately to the north of Heathrow Airport at the start of March 2010 when the site was a local eyesore and dumping ground. They had come to fight against the plans for a third runway at Heathrow, which would destroy the whole village of Sipson, but immediately realised the potential of the site to create a productive alternative home that would become a creative hub for the area.

Being a relatively local resident and also involved in the fight against the third runway I’d heard about them more or less from the start, but I’d not managed to visit – and on the couple of occasions I’d passed the gates they were locked. Later they got more organised with advertised opening times but I was busy with other things.

Inside a temporary home

They had to begin by clearing out 30 tons of rubbish, including much that had been illegally dumped there, and persuading the local council to take it away. They made some of the existing buildings habitable and many of those who came to live there built their own small temporary homes, while others continued to live in tents.

A wood-fire heated shower on the site

By 2012 the site had become in an inspiration for alternative life-styles with lessons for us all, and when the site owners won a court case to evict the site, Judge Karen Walden-Smith described the project as “much loved and well used” by the local community and they were granted leave to appeal on human rights grounds. They were evicted from a part of the site in 2019, but the final eviction only came on 8th March 2021. It was a sad end.

On Saturday 8th September 2012 I made my first visit to what was by then a thriving site having an Open Day, with a special welcome and programme of events. Among the other visitors I met and photographed was local MP John McDonnell, a firm supporter of the project who was quoted on their web site:

“This inspirational project has not only dramatically improved this derelict site but it has lifted the morale of the whole local community in the campaign against the third runway and in planning a sustainable future for our area. We cannot lose this initiative and I will do all I can to enable it to continue.”

The site was running regular bicycle workshops, art workshops and gardening with site residents and local residents. The bike workshop was recycling old bicycles, using the parts from old and abandoned bikes to create impressive ‘new’ machines as well as teaching people to repair their own bikes. I only wish it was still running as there are now a couple of old bikes in my own shed I’d go there with for their help.

A new meeting area, built with mud and waste materials

I was also impressed by their vegetable growing – which as I say in My London Diary made some of those produced in my own garden a few miles away look rather pathetic. The meeting room, newly built from recycled materials with walls of reinforced mud and donated straw bale seating was also impressive. Many rural buildings in the past were built using ‘wattle and daub’ and this is a more modern use of a similar technique, with thick walls giving good thermal properties, though I think this example is too well ventilated to be cosy.

Comfortable seating – all thrown out from homes

Living ‘off-grid’ and making use of recycled furniture and household goods is obviously not a possible future for the whole of society, but it does provide inspiration for how we might live better with less, and in doing so reduce our own carbon footprint. But despite the comfortable furnishing and great vegetarian or vegan food, it made me feel I was too old and used to my way of life to join them, and as I ended my comments I wrote “But although it seemed to be a very pleasant place to live on a warm summer day, I think it might be rather a harsh existence in winter.”

I returned several times in the following years and was always impressed by Grow Heathrow.

More at Grow Heathrow Open Day


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Heathrow and More

Monday, May 31st, 2021

Heathrow – Make a Noise – No Third Runway – 31st May 2008

It really is long past time we saw some real policy changes to back up the governments promise to be leaders in the fight against global heating. We need real action on a number of front, but one obvious area is transport.

There are I think three major announcements that would clearly demonstrate some substance behind the rhetoric, and it would be good to see them all before the start of COP26 in Glasgow.

Firstly there should be a complete re-evaluation of the £27 road building programme for 2020-2025, with the cancellation of most or all new road schemes, with money being diverted into public transport schemes, better infrastructure for electric vehicles and better maintenance of the existing road network, particularly local roads.

Secondly we should see the cancellation of HS2, any economic case for which has disappeared. It’s hard to know why it was ever given the go-ahead, when better alternatives existed. There should be long term savings from stopping it even at this late stage, and it would be good to see more improvements to the existing rail system and in particular local rail and light rail systems.

But perhaps the most important announcement would be to end all thoughts of airport expansion and in particular the plans for another runway at Heathrow. It seems very unlikely to actually go ahead, but it would be good for this to again be ruled out.

Back on May 31 2008 I was with campaigners marching from Hatton Cross on the edge of Heathrow around the north-eastern edge of the airport to the village of Sipson, a short distance to its north and under threat from demolition for an extra “third” runway. (Heathrow was built with six, but only two are now usable as planes have got larger with higher landing speeds as well as new building on the airport.)

I was one of the campaigners as well as taking photographs, having been a local resident for all but a few years of my life. When I was first aware of Heathrow, DC-3s and other relatively quiet propellor aircraft would amble above my garden perhaps every ten minutes or so and I would see the giant letters under their wings and cross them off in my spotter’s book as they made their way to or from the runway a little under 3 miles away.

By the time I was in secondary school and taking O and A levels, jets had taken over and the noise was ear-splitting and flights more frequent. My school was a mile further way from the airport, but still under a flightpath, and lessons were often interrupted by the noise. A year or two later we moved house as my father was re-marrying and we needed more space, and he chose a street still close to the airport but centrally between the two flypaths, where aircraft noise for us was greatly reduced.

When I moved back to the area in 1974, I chose a house well off the two main flypaths, though still under 4 miles from Heathrow. But when there were strong cross winds, perhaps 20 days a year, aircraft used two of the shorter runways which directed them over our roof – though sometimes it seemed almost as if they were going through the loft and the whole house shook. We had the whole house double-glazed which helped considerably – and the new windows didn’t rattle like the old ones had when the planes flew over.

The protest in May 2008 was a part of a long campaign, one of a number of protests I photographed since 2003 which eventually led to the plans for another runway to be dropped. Among those who opposed to expansion were both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties (and later it was their coalition government which cancelled it on 12 May 2010) and then Mayor of London Boris Johnson. But Heathrow didn’t give up and after a biased commission report Heathrow expansion became government policy in October 2016. It was the wrong decision then and seems totally crazy now in the light of the climate crisis.

Heathrow – No Third Runway

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


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.


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.


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.