BAA, who own Heathrow airport, asked the High Court today for an injunction to limit the Camp for Climate Action, a week-long climate change demonstration to be held at an undisclosed location close to the airport, to three designated protest areas.
This is a climb down by BAA who had previously sought to prevent members of three environmental groups travelling to the Camp for Climate Action, which is scheduled for August 14-21. One of these groups, AirportWatch, is an umbrella group of environmental organisations with a total membership of 5 million people.
BAA’s rethink comes after Transport for London, the government body responsible for London’s transport system, attended the High Court yesterday to oppose the injunction.
Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, BAA’s lawyer, this morning outlined his new proposals to the court. He said that he was asking the court for an order designating three public protest areas on the Heathrow site where the police will “regulate behaviour to ensure lawful activity takes place” whilst preventing protesters carrying out ‘unlawful’ activity - obstructing the operation of the airport or its passengers - elsewhere at the airport. The Camp for Climate Action told The Ecologist that each of these areas is large enough to hold 100 demonstrators, whilst 5,000 are expected to attend the camp and to want to protest.
He argued that the express purpose of the Climate Camp was to obstruct the proper use of the airport or it would not be happening at Heathrow. Grumbling about the beastliness of environmental activists, he complained that they had placed stickers in Piccadilly Line stations saying the line was “Closed for Climate Camp 14-21 August”, which may confuse foreign nationals. Nick Blake QC, speaking in defence, reassured the court that London Underground cleaners would remove these.
Judge Mrs Justice Swift said that she was confused how the proposed injunction added anything new to existing law or helped the police deal with civil disobedience. She was also bemused by the terms of the injunction, which she said would allow peaceful protest throughout the Heathrow site.
The three defendants mentioned in the injunction and in court today – Joss Garman and Leo Murray from anti-airport expansion group Plane Stupid, and John Stewart from Hacan ClearSkies – are unable to talk to the press while court proceedings are ongoing. The announcement of the verdict is due on Monday morning.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist August 2007