19 January 2009

A piece of the action

After being given the go-ahead on Thursday, despite a much vociferous campaign and a threat of legal action by London Mayor Boris Johnson, thousands of people have signed up to join the campaign against the third Heathrow runway by buying part of a field near the airport.

Greenpeace said 1,000 people an hour were adding their names to a list to buy the title deeds of a parcel of land in the village of Sipson, which is due to disappear under the new landing strip and sixth terminal - not just the parcel of land you understand, the entire village.

Over 10,000 people have now signed the land-purchase bid, which was started by actors Emma Thompson, Alistair McGowan and Conservative Party green adviser Zac Goldsmith, who bought the land for an undisclosed fee. The parcel of land is about half the size of a football pitch and the campaigners insist they will never sell it to BAA and would fight any compulsory purchase order (CPO) in court, which would considerably push-up costs for the airport operator.

Greenpeace director John Sauven said: "We've thrown a massive spanner in the engine driving Heathrow expansion. As the new owners of the land where the Government wants to build the runway, we'll resist all attempts at compulsory purchase. If it comes to it, Greenpeace will be joined by huge numbers of people to block BAA's bulldozers from getting onto our land. This site will become a focus for climate campaigners across Britain and the wider world because this new runway cannot and will not be built."

One way in which any CPO could be slowed down further is to divide the prized parcel of land into thousands of tiny pieces and to sell it to people around the world - the Inuits near the Polar ice cap was mentioned - with Greenpeace claiming that any CPO would need to physically serve it to the landowner.

Opponents to the runway claim that at full capacity, an expanded Heathrow would become the biggest single source of CO2 emissions in Britain. They argue that environmental concerns should outweigh the argument by business that expansion is crucial to the British economy.