- The Guardian
- Friday July 27 2007
Heathrow airport is targeting climate change activists with a sweeping injunction which could prevent members of the RSPB and the National Trust, plus millions more affiliated to environmental organisations, from attending a green protest.
The airport’s owner, BAA, said it wants to minimise disruption when the Camp for Climate Action is held there from August 14 to 21. The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, gave warning yesterday that disruption to the airport was likely.
BAA named three individuals on the application as well as “members and supporters” of Airport Watch, a coalition of environment groups which together total nearly 5 million members.
Under the injunction, a ban on approaching the airport would cover National Trust, Woodland Trust and RSPB supporters, as well as members of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The case will be heard next Wednesday.
“This could stop millions of people who are members of these groups going to Heathrow,” said Kate Harrison of Matrix chambers, who will be representing some of the people and groups named on the injunction. “The judge will have to decide whether it applies to all the individual members of the groups. You have to go back to the miners’ strike [in the 1980s] to find an injunction on this scale.” Green groups are working together to challenge the injunction.
Despite assurances from camp organisers that no one would try to occupy runways or go “airside”, the company said yesterday that it feared disruption. “We are throwing the net very wide to make sure the airport can operate securely,” said a BAA spokesman. “People have rights to protest but people also have the right to go on holiday, too.
“The intention is not to stop protest or to withhold people’s rights in any way. Legally, if you take it to its very extreme, it does mean that people cannot go to the airport to protest. But that is not realistic.”
Sir Ian said the protest could be very disruptive. “It will require a very large number of officers to deliver it. The Met is quite capable of delivering those officers. We have been working our way through what we need and we will provide it … But it is likely there will be some disruption at Heathrow,” he said.
After the terror attack on Glasgow airport, police are concerned about the camp and have been stepping up security. “You would be very silly indeed to try to breach the security of a British airport in any way,” said one airport source yesterday.
The application for the injunction, seen by the Guardian, covers airport land, local villages, named areas in and around London including Paddington station, the Heathrow Express, which is owned by BAA, the Piccadilly line on the London Underground, and stretches of the M4 and M25. In theory, say protesters, it would cover the Prince of Wales, who is president of the National Trust, and celebrities who have worked with groups trying to stop the airport expanding.
“This is corporate bullying, designed to shut down peaceful protest,” said John Stewart of Hacan, a local group named in the BAA injunction. “Local people are furious.”
Heathrow has been targeted by climate change campaigners as the government prepares to start the formal process of building a third runway. The runway is backed by ministers, airlines and business leaders but opposed by local residents and green activists, who say expansion will contravene environmental policy.
Up to 1,000 protesters and locals are expected to attend the camp at a site to be announced. The peaceful protest is expected to attract scientists, students and church organisations concerned about aviation’s role in climate change. One day has been set aside for “direct action”.