Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Resistance is fertile over third runway

As proposals for a new runway at Heathrow are resurrected, Isabelle Koksal visits the eco-settlement set up to stand in its way

January 12, 2013
4 min read

A third runway at Heathrow is back on the agenda. In 2010 the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition made a formal agreement that plans for a third runway should be scrapped. Yet there have been persistent murmurings from the British Airports Authority (BAA), big business and the chancellor about the need for an expansion of capacity. The issues of climate crisis and the tarmacking over of communities in the name of ‘development’ are being sidelined.

But in Sipson village, one of the places that would be bulldozed were the runway to go ahead, there sits a patch of land where those issues are very much alive. It is home to Grow Heathrow – a community space and growing project that exists to oppose runway expansion. ‘We don’t know what is going to happen with the third runway but the point about this place is that we are ready to resist it and we’re not going anywhere,’ says John Allen, who has been living and working at the space since April 2012.

Grow Heathrow began in 2010 when a group of people from Plane Stupid and Climate Camp moved into the local area to support residents in their resistance to the third runway. Having established relationships with the residents during the 2007 Climate Camp in a nearby field, the plan was to create a project that would be a continuation of this. The campaigners spotted an abandoned junk yard, which was home to three large greenhouses from its past as a plant nursery, and made plans to turn it into a community space. After receiving support from the local residents’ association, they squatted the site and went about transforming what had been a ‘sea of cars’ into a beautiful and inspiring project organising around climate change, food sovereignty, community resilience and squatting.

Their takeover of the site was welcomed by local residents, who were relieved to see the back of the scrapyard. But more important was the support that Grow Heathrow extended to the residents in their struggle against the third runway. As residents watched their village empty after bullying from BAA and the government, the fact that Grow Heathrow has stuck around means a great deal to them. This constant in a landscape of flux and uncertainty gave them ‘a sense of hope’ and made them feel supported, one resident told Allen.

The local residents were in turn quick to stand up for Grow Heathrow. In the early days when the police used to harass the people there, a telephone tree was used to contact a ‘flashmob’ of elderly women who would turn up and demand that the police leave ‘our activists’ alone.

Grow Heathrow is also an experiment in sustainable living. A wind turbine, constructed from scratch on site, and solar panels provide the energy it needs. There are planters full of vegetables at the front and in the greenhouses. The entire site is a maze of incredible eco-contraptions made on the spot from reclaimed materials. There is a clay pizza oven, providing pizza in four minutes flat – ‘the secret is a thin base and lots of ingredients’ – alongside stoves made from gas canisters, compost toilets, a compost mound that provides hot water, an outdoor wood burning shower, and a hay house that is currently in development.

‘What’s been great about this is that people with skills, and willing to share those skills with passion and energy, have come together to make all of this and that’s why I was attracted to it,’ John Allen explains.

Admiring the half-built hay house and listening to their future plans it is hard to imagine that their project and their right to a home is under threat. Yet inevitably the owners are taking them through the courts. In what is a landmark case, Grow Heathrow will argue against their eviction under Article Eight of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees the right to home and family life. While Article Eight currently applies to public landlords, it has not yet been determined whether it applies to the private sector. If the courts were to find that it did, this would have significant implications for privately renting tenants and squatters.

Grow Heathrow’s activists have many fights on their hands, but they’ve also got lots of support. John Allen describes how he was cycling through the town one day and passed a pub with a group of drunken men outside. They shouted at him as he cycled past: ‘Hey! You’re doing brilliant work!’

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world


20