Joe's blog

Boris's nonsense island airport

We don't need any more airports! In truth, more airport expansion would be a disaster. We cannot expand our airports and reach our climate change reduction targets at the same time – this is a fact that we have been shouting off roofs, on runways etc for years. But Boris Johnson just doesn't seem to get it.

On Monday 22nd November, Boris issued a report which said building a new airport in the Thames Estuary, 'dubbed Boris Island', would allow Britain to tap into billions of pounds of foreign investment and would provide more airport capacity. However campaigners are challenging these statistics. AirportWatch, the umbrella organisation representing aviation campaigning groups, has produced figures which show that London already has a greater number of flights to the world’s main business destinations than any of its European rivals. In total, London’s airports have over 1000 departure flights each week to the key business destinations compared with Paris’s 499, Frankfurt’s 443, and Amsterdam’s 282. The full figures are published HERE.

What is even more concerning is that Boris has refused to even acknowledge the threat of climate change. The Heathrow 3rd runway plans were partly grounded because of climate change arguments so when Boris doesn't even mention climate change you have to start worrying. The reality remains that if the aviation industry were to keep to their promises to get its emissions down to 2000 levels, they will not need any extra runways at all as they would have to cut flying by 35%.

In terms of location there is also the small issue of the Liquefied Natural Gas facility which lies in the way. The Isle of Grain, where Boris wants to build his silly airport, is home to one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas terminals, which sees a fifth of the UK’s gas supply offloaded by container ships and stored there. Lethal liquid gas for the area comes via the container port at the Isle of Grain which surely rules out these bizarre airport plans in the first place.

Boris Island is now right up there on our radar and Plane Stupid will be keeping an eye out for any new developments to the story. Kent County Council and Medway Council, along with the RSPB, will all fight the scheme. You can add Plane Stupid to that list too.

Plane Stupid on the runway at Southend

From the Press Release: 16 protesters arrested at Southend Airport.

16 protestors, who occupied the runway at Southend Airport, have been arrested by Essex Police.  It is believed they are being held at Southend Police Station. Campaigners from Plane Stupid and Climate Rush entered the airport shortly after 9am this morning.  The protest is against the planned expansion of Southend Airport.

Plane Stupid installed solar panels on the runway.  Campaigners from Climate Rush, dressed as pilots and cabin crew, were on a nearby footpath performing a dance routine.

A spokeswoman for the protestors said:

“Southend Council say the expansion will bring jobs.  But investment in renewable energy would create many more jobs without damaging the climate.  What we need is solar power not plane power.  The bigger runway is bad for climate change, bad for local residents under the flight path and is not needed to help the local economy.” 

Southend Airport has been bought by Stobarts, the logistics firm.  Easyjet has announced that it plans to start operating commercial flights from the airport in spring 2012.

There has been a major local campaign.  It has focused on the impact the airport would have on the thousands of people who will live under the flight paths.

An appeal to better judgement

Today defendants Tilly Gifford and Dan Glass from the Climate 9 had their appeal heard at Edinburgh Appeal Court against the conviction they received last summer for a breach of the peace.

The conviction related to direct action taken in March 2009 where the Climate 9 shut down Aberdeen airport and directly stopped 107 tonnes of emissions from contributing to man-made climate change. They played golf in a cage on the taxiway to highlight the fact that the airport's expansion will serve to deliver Donald Trump's super-rich golfer pals to his contentios course at Balmedie Estate.

Following a two week long trial in August 2010, which was the first jury-led climate change trial in Scotland, all 9 defendants were convicted of Breach of the Peace for their role in the protest. Dan and Tilly made the decision to appeal against the conviction as they hold firm to the belief that the action they took was justified, proportionate and necessary in the face of catastrophic climate change.

Appellant Dan Glass said:

"The Scottish legal system defines breach of the peace as an activity "causing fear and alarm to the ordinary and reasonable person, and which threatens serious disturbance to the community". I can't think of a better way to describe climate change. Sometimes, we believe, the law must be challenged to protect our fundamental freedom of expression and to disrupt lawful activities that are harming the prospects of future generations. Furthermore, it's the role of a democracy to protect the voices of the minority as well as the majority".

The appeal has reached its final stages after months of anticipation and against the backdrop of severe climate change, as recent estimates suggest an unthinkable 4 degree temperature rise by 2080. During the 4 hour hearing this morning the court heard a strong case from the defence, who argued that the jury wasn't given any sense of this grave context regarding both the importance and urgency of the protest.

Appellant Tilly Gifford said:

"The judge presented a choice to the jury between 'breach of the peace' and 'freedom of expression' without any context. This is simply not good enough. The jury should be given the serious climate change context of the situation relating to the case, otherwise the inference is completely abstract from the reality."

The appeal verdict will be heard within the next 6 weeks in a final court hearing. A date is not set yet. If it is successful it will set an important precedent for future protest cases, through actively defending freedom of expression and supporting the legitimacy of the right to protest given the governments inaction to effectively tackle climate change. It would be the first legal case in Scotland to engage with the severity of climate change that we face and challenge the 'business as usual' attitude that the aviation industry is taking in its expansion plans.

Plane Stupid spokesperson, Joe Ryle said:

"Aviation remains the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in the UK and we cannot let this go unchallenged. However the heart of this debate is about our fundamental right to protest and whether we are prepared to tolerate greater disruption to business as usual in the face of climate change."

10 steps to a hard hitting action media team

Here is a resource for new groups springing up in the anti cuts movement. Having a media strategy is always important, even if doing NO mainsteam media is your strategy. This guide gives you the "skills, resources and mindset for communicating with the public, talking to the press and building a grassroots movement that kicks butt on the streets and on air". Download it from HERE

Take the train like the rest of us

In a decision that makes sense, Leeds/Bradford airport is to be left without any flights going to London. Flying short-haul is the single most damaging thing an individual can to in terms of your carbon footprint so this move has been a long time coming.

Flybe blame the cancellation of their service to London on increasing landing fees at Gatwick but surely this service along with all other domestic flight services in the country should be cancelled.

50,000 passengers flew from Leeds/Bradford airport to Gatwick last year, the big majority of those people being the very rich who can afford it. Most of us take take the train round the country. The train from Leeds to London KX takes just over 2 hours and is 10 times less polluting than flying. Trains not planes!


Verdict to be today in Manchester Climate Trial

After a fantastic day yesterday, we've just got news that the judge will announce his verdict at 2pm this afternoon on the six defendants in the Manchester Airport on Trial case.
It's a bit earlier than we expected, but we're really hopeful for the right outcome. With the strength of arguments from our panel of expert witnesses, we're sure the judge can't help but be convinced!
Yesterday we heard from Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, whose testimony on the effects of climate change and the role played by aviation emissions was as terrifying as it was inspiring. He told us that "every day we are reducing the chances of living a reasonably liveable future," and that only if we take action now can we hope to keep global warming to anything resembling manageable levels. You can read his full report, as submitted to the court here.
Today Martin Eakins, Lib Dem councillor in Manchester, told the court how local councillors voted unanimously against the expansion plans but were totally ignored by the owner of the airport, Manchester City Council. Local resident, Pete Johnson, described the proposed demolition of his family home - you can read more about the threat to the Hasty Lane community on the Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport blog: Hasty Lane's been twinned with the village of Sipson at Heathrow, who finally triumphed over similar plans to bulldoze their village by Heathrow airport last year
We'll let you know more from court as soon as we hear, and blog more about the testimonies of all the witnesses. Thanks for all your messages of support!

Manchester airport protesters claim lawful excuse as climate trial begins

The trial of six climate protesters who breached airside security at Manchester Airport began today at Trafford Magistrates Court. The defendants will argue that they acted to prevent death and serious injury by stopping emissions from the airport, a plea which echoes the defence of Greenpeace campaigners acquitted of closing down Kingsnorth Power Station. During the trial, which is expected to last three to four days, the defence will call expert witnesses including Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre who is speaking today in court, and experts on health and the effects of climate change.

The trial begins ten years after Manchester Airport opened their second runway in February 2001, following some of the largest environmental protests of the 1990's. The six defendants will plead not guilty to the charge of aggravated trespass after they formed a human circle around the wheel of a Monarch Airline jet last May 2010.

In November 2009 the airport received planning approval to expand the World Freight Centre at Manchester Airport, which will result in the demolition of local homes. Although the coalition government cancelled plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, campaigners are now focussing there action more regionally as capacity is now being increased at regional airports instead.

People from across North England have pledged to take direct action to stop the expansion plans. The threatened homes in Manchester have 'twinned' with the village of Sipson which would have been demolished to make way for the Heathrow expansion. Witnesses for the defence at the trial will include a local Lib Dem Councillor and John McDonnell, the Labour MP for the Heathrow area.

Supporters of the 'Manchester Airport on Trial' group gathered outside court this morning with a large paper aeroplane. The mock paper plane was made from a March 2010 High Court Ruling, stating that the airport expansion plans are incompatible with the Climate Act 2008. 

Kerry Williams, speaking outside court from the 'Manchester Airport on Trial' group said:

The trial started with a huge show of support showing that people aren't willing to be bullied by airports and government greed in the face of runaway climate change. It's not OK for the aviation industry to be a special case whilst avoiding paying taxes, creating more emissions and more noise. In an age of austerity we need to continue taking direct action to protect people, the climate and not the aviation industry. "

Jo Rake, Heathrow resident and climate campaigner made the journey up to Manchester and said:

By 2050 Manchester Airport plans to be as busy as Heathrow is today, becoming 'the Heathrow of the North' with flights every 70 seconds. We showed the success of people power to scrap the third runway at Heathrow and so we can't let the flights be transferred to Manchester Airport instead. We cannot allow a climate catastrophe and the demolition of family homes at Hasty Lane. If we can win at Heathrow, we can win in Manchester too.”

The defendants have received a number of statements of support from national politicians, journalists, lawyers, organisations and individuals including Zac Goldsmith MP, Caroline Lucas MP and John Sauven, director of Greenpeace.

For updates follow the Manchester Airport on Trial Twitter feed.


Heathrow campaigners earn right to transform villages and ensure No 3rd runway

Transition Heathrow and Sipson residents celebrated on Saturday morning as new court papers seeking to evict community garden Grow Heathrow revealed that the project won't have to appear in court until November this year.

The good news came after a turbulent two weeks for the environmental movement after revelations came out about the workings of undercover police in campaigns groups.

The extra ten months gives the team at Grow Heathrow more time to turn the land into a flourishing market garden. The project has provided local residents with a space to start building more sustainable Heathrow communities after the 3rd runway was dropped in March 2010.

Leading up to a court case seeking to evict them a few months ago they received many statements of support from a wide range of people including MPs, airport workers, local police and many local residents. The petition to "Keep Grow Heathrow Alive" also received over 700 signatures. Since March 1st 2010 the Transition Heathrow activists and local residents have been working together to turn the site into a hub for all the community. The project has hosted various events from food growing workshops, direct action trainings and a banquet.

Before the activists arrived the derelict greenhouses were used by the owners to illegally dump cars and other waste. Grow Heathrow gardeners and local residents have since cleared the refuse with the help of the local council and carefully restored the glass in the greenhouses - turning the land back into a market garden and a meeting space for local people. Residents who had been fighting Heathrow's expansion welcomed the initiative, which is located on the the site of the now-cancelled 3rd runway. Activists initially occupied the land in solidarity with the villagers who BAA has been trying to force from their homes to make way for expansion.

Transition Heathrow member Jo Rake, 21, said:

"Due to the threat of eviction it has meant the past few months has been filled with working out how we could resist being evicted. The decision to delay our court case until November recognises the need of a transition phase for the Heathrow villages. BAA are still trying to buy up all the homes they can get for the 3rd runway so now that we have a secure site for the next 10 months, we can continue to work with the local residents to show BAA where to go".

Local resident Tracy Howard, 35, said:

"The local residents have been thrilled by the news that Grow Heathrow will remain in Sipson for a lot longer than first thought. The site has provided a space for us all to come together again to rebuild after the blight caused by the 3rd runway issue. Not only is the site used for events, workshops and skillshares - it has become a hang out for residents and activists who have become very close friends since they took the site. I am looking forward to growing more vegetables over the summer to provide locally sourced organic veg, rather than food shipped in from across the world to our shelves at big supermarkets"

Daughter of Tracy, Olivia Howard, 11, said:

"It's nice to hang out somewhere where the is no agenda and you just get to be yourself. A place where there is nice people and local people and you have the opportunity to make a difference".