Frankfurt airport expansion meets determined local opposition
I've just got back - by coach, thanks for asking - from meeting campaign groups opposing expansion at Frankfurt airport. The authorities want a fourth runway, and expansion is justified on the same sort of grounds as our third runway: Frankfurt's financial centre will collapse; it will bring jobs; flights will go to other airports; passengers will choose to change planes at other hub airports, etc.
The owners have already cut down a million trees to make way for it. This is a travesty of the highest order, and stirring up some emotional memories. Over thirty years ago the woods were the scene of some of the fiercest and most famous protests in German history, as tens of thousands of people fought to stop a third runway being built. There was virtually civil war when the authorities tried to remove the protestors. The protest had a profound effect in Germany, helping radicalise a generation and kickstarting the nascent green movement.
But it also left many campaigners dispirited. They had fought – and lost – the biggest and most dramatic campaign against airport expansion ever seen in Europe. This time round they have concentrated on legal challenges, but so far without success. And while the woods were occupied again, it was largely by younger environmental activists. They held out for nine months but were evicted earlier this year. There still is a small camp, which we visited, but is not on the site of the new runway.
This summer the young activists are planning a Climate Camp, like there was at Heathrow two years ago, in the woods near the airport to which activists from across Europe will be invited. The local residents are pursuing their legal challenges. There are major campaigns against airport expansion in other German cities - notably at Munich and Stuttgart where last year 15,000 people marched against a new runway - and a burgeoning direct action movement. If the Frankfurt campaigners can persuade these other campaigners to join them this summer, they have a fighting chance of success.
Check out my photos from the trip on our Flickr photostream.