Posts Tagged ‘John Stewart’

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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