Four Tory Councils are set to take legal action against the expansion of Heathrow Airport. Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead will be joined by Greenpeace in seeking a judicial review of the decision to go ahead with a third runway.
Court action is likely to delay any final decision actually being implemented. For the residents of the area and those who will be most directly affected the words of David Cameron, “No ifs, No buts. No third runway” now ring very hollow.
The anger felt by local people as Heathrow Ltd throw their weight around has not dimmed in the years of meetings, legal challenges and direct action that has been so far employed in the fight against airport expansion. 200 people attended a public meeting in Sipson on 31 October to hear from local MP John McDonnell, the Heathrow Campaign Against Noise (HCAN) and some of the figures who may be involved in the legal proceedings.
The delay in the decision is a major frustration for residents who want to be able to plan their futures and know if they will still have a home. Whilst some favour expansion at other airports instead of Heathrow, the room was sympathetic to the shared concerns of those living near Stansted, Gatwick and other regional airports. Contributions in favour of a publicly run and significantly improved integrated transport system got broad support.
The legal challenge itself is no guarantee of a victory. This was put best by a QC in the room who explained: “judges are generally conservative and cautious people who don’t like to upset the Government, whoever it may be when it comes to big infrastructure projects.”
Others in the room were pissed off with the Unite union (who back expansion) in particular. They highlighted the campaigns Unite runs on housing but it is in effect in favour of their homes being destroyed! Not all unions are in favour of expansion, and workers at Heathrow have an important role to play to fight for a democratic transport policy that puts workers’ control and environmental sustainability at the heart of its campaign.
The interest in a working-class environmentalism amongst some of the unions appears to have faded in recent years. This is something that needs to be urgently rediscovered if the fight against Heathrow is to be won once and for all. Existing community campaigns need to reach out to those workers who have the power to grind Heathrow to a halt.