Posts Tagged ‘Sipson’

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


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.


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

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.