Posts Tagged ‘John Stewart’

No Third Runway – 31 May 2008

Tuesday, May 31st, 2022

No Third Runway – 31 May 2008 – several thousand campaigners against the expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport marched from Hatton Cross through part of the airport to the village of Sipson which will be obliterated if the third runway is built.

No Third Runway - 31 May 2008

I’m not sure whether it was on this occasion or another similar event where I was approached and asked if I would like to be the official photographer at height on a cherry-picker taking the photograph of thousands below me on the ground in a giant ‘NO’ each holding up the message ‘NO’ but having no head at all for heights I was very pleased to be taking part in the event with both feet firmly on the ground. I was holding up my poster with its ‘NO’ in one hand and my camera in the other when I made this picture.

No Third Runway - 31 May 2008

I don’t think I’ve ever had much of a head for heights. Perhaps it was my early experiences when my father was sometimes left with the baby and had to take to to work with him – even when he was up fixing roofs. I have some vague but vivid memories of being up on the roof of a house, perhaps our own, under the Heathrow flightpath with aircraft – propellor rather than jet in those days – passing low overhead. But things have worsened in more recent years as my balance has worsened, and now even low walls are a step too high.

The account on My London Diary – Heathrow – Make a Noise – No Third Runway – makes my views on Heathrow clear, beginning with the paragraph “It is now obvious to everyone with their head out of the sand is that London Heathrow is in the wrong place. It always was, since its creation by subterfuge and lies during the last years of the war, but no government since has had the nerve to challenge the powerful aviation lobby.

No Third Runway - 31 May 2008
MPs Justine Greening (Con, Putney), John McDonnell (Lab, Hayes & Harlington), and Susan Kramer (LibDem, Richmond Park)

It was a view backed by the politicians of all parties who came to speak at the rally, though Labour – then in government – were only (if ably) represented by local MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell. And although the Deputy Mayor of London was there, Mayor Boris Johnson who had promised to come had decided instead to fly off for a holiday in Turkey – just as he has done on various occasions as Prime Minister. The Archbishop of Canterbury had also been expected, but was at the last minute unable to make it and sent an envoy with his message.

No Third Runway - 31 May 2008

Most of those marching were local residents, particularly from Sipson and Harmondsworth which would be destroyed by the development, but also from the other areas under the flightpath, which includes a great swathe of West London. Given the nature of the protest and those taking part the level of police interest in it seemed excessive, and it was noticeable that they seemed to be particularly interested in photographing and filming the photographers who were covering the protest – I several times found myself staring into the lens of the police team.

I don’t know why the police do this, nor what happens to the photographs and videos. On the only occasion I’ve bothered to send a Freedom of Information request requesting details of the photographs they have of me from a number of events where they had quite clearly taken them I received a reply stating that there were no images on record… We are not being told the truth.

One of very few flights on the northern runway as the march went past

Notably missing from the event were any representatives of Spelthorne Council, my local council and the only council in the area not to oppose the expansion. The Conservative MP for Spelthorne, David Wilsher also supported airport expansion against the then party line and “also denies that climate change is caused by human activities and some constituents expect him to announce his membership of the flat earth society any day soon. Best known for his introduction of the anti-gay ‘Section 28’ amendment in 1988 he replaced for the 2010 election by Kwasi Kwarteng after being implicated in an expenses scandal involving the payment of £105,00 of parliamentary expenses to a company set up with his partner to run his office. The inquiry into his expenses was suspended because of his poor health.

John Stewart of HACAN and Geraldine Nicholson of NOTRAG perform a duet: NO THIRD RUNWAY

You can read a full account of the march and rally with a large number of pictures on My London Diary: Heathrow – No Third Runway


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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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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


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