Protesters buy land earmarked for Heathrow expansion

14th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Environmentalists and local residents alike are joining together, sometimes in costume, to stop the expansion of the world's biggest international passenger air hub.

London – Campaigners fighting the expansion of London's Heathrow airport opened a new front on Tuesday, when they announced they had bought land earmarked for the construction of a third runway.

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson is among those involved in the purchase, which environmental group Greenpeace said threw a "massive spanner" into the 9 billion pound (13 billion dollar, 10 billion euro) expansion plan.

Greenpeace said they would fight any attempts to buy the land by compulsory purchase. "We'll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables," Thompson added.

The government's decision on whether to expand Heathrow, the world's biggest international passenger air hub, is expected within weeks.

It has been delayed as ministers thrash out the pros and cons of the project, which has pitted business groups and airlines against environmental groups and local residents.

More than 40 lawmakers from the ruling Labour party and the London mayor Boris Johnson, a member of the main opposition Conservatives, are opposed to the expansion, arguing that there is no economic need for a third runway and that it will increase pollution.

But business and trades union leaders believe the project is vital to the British economy, and would create at least 50,000 new jobs.

"Only modernization at Heathrow will keep Britain on the global transport map and stop our cities and industries from losing out to our competitors in Europe," said Derek Simpson, joint leader of the trades union Unite.

About 250 anti-expansion protesters gathered at Heathrow on Monday, police said, dressed in clothes in the style of the early 1900s.

Some dressed as suffragettes, the activists who campaigned to get women the vote and whose peaceful tactics they sought to emulate.

With a string quartet playing in the background, the activists chatted, sang and sipped from champagne glasses.

"We are trying to emulate what our ancestors did for us to make a positive change, in a civilized fashion, for future generations," said campaigner Dan Glass, who was dressed as a chimney sweep. "We have got to do something now because if we don't, the situation will get so much worse."

A simultaneous protest attended by about 50 people took place at Manchester airport in northern England.


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