Posts Tagged ‘Transition Heathrow’

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


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.