Throughout the period of Labour Party Government from 1997 to 2010, the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government from 2010 to 2015 and now the Conservative government led by David Cameron, two policies have been constant. One is to avert catastrophic climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from human activity, which as everyone should be aware by now, is said by scientists to be the sole cause of climate change (arguments about whether it is or not are not relevant to this article).
The other, supported by successive governments, all of which have claimed to be 'the greenest government ever' is the urgent need to expand Heathrow airport, to the west of London, reputed to be the busiest international airport in the world. The reason a third runway, with extra terminal buildings etc. must be added to Heathrow, covering a few more square miles around the capital in concrete and tarmac, is said by supporters of carbon dioxide belching air travel to be that Britain's economic development will be hampered if we do not go ahead.
The Heathrow expansion project has attracted more than its fair share of controversy. While new media commentators like myself point out the hypocrisy of governments claiming concern for the environment as justification for imposing green levies on domestic fuel bills giving whole hearted support to a project that would increase air traffic by 250,000 flights per year in addition to the 1400 flights per day currently using the existing two runways. This, you must bear in mind is in a location where pollution levels above the legal limit are recorded.
Thirteen anti-expansion activists from the Plane Stupid group appeared in court this week, charged with trespass on the airports property and have been advices to “expect jail sentences” on being found guilty of trespass criminal damage and unauthorized entry to secure areas of the airport.
The court heard the activists cut through a fence and ‘locked-on’ to each other on the runway on July 13, 2015. Protesters chained themselves to various equipment, thus obstructing the runway, while colleagues told news reporters that if the new runway is built it will breach climate change targets and 'benefit the rich'. Twenty five flights had to be cancelled because of the action.
The action forced the cancellation of 25 flights.
Judge Deborah Wright described the defendants as people of good standing who wanted to express concerned about the effect and Heathrow expansion would have on environmental quality, but described the cost of the disruption as “absolutely astronomical.” The protesters pleaded guilty to trespass and causing damage but said the action was justified to prevent people dying from the effects of pollution.
The website of the London Borough of Richmond (admittedly one of London's more affluent boroughs) provides on this page some insight into the extent living in proximity to a busy airport can affect quality of life. It is not just Carbon Dioxide (which is not in itself harmful to humans in concentrations several times higher that prevail in the area) and other noxious substances emitted by jet engines, but noise pollution, traffic congestion, (and bizarrely the occasional corpse of a stowaway dropping from the wheel housing of aircraft preparing to land) that residents have to contend with.