POLITICIANS and airline bosses were left gobsmacked last week when residents disrupted a minister’s speech in protest at a proposed new runway at Heathrow Airport.
A group of villagers from Sipson and Harmondsworth and residents from surrounding towns interrupted the airline industry conference at Chatham House, in London, on Tuesday last week.
Some activists stormed the stage while others held a banner reading ‘No third runway’ or demonstrated outside.
Dr John Hunt, of Hounslow, confronted Transport Minister Douglas Alexander during a speech.
Dr Hunt said: “For decades the Government has betrayed us with a catalogue of broken promises.
“Now we’re facing yet more noise and more concrete and this time they want to wipe our entire community off the map. The time for gentle persuasion is over. Douglas Alexander is warned, the fight back has begun.”
The conference was held to discuss allowing aviation a free market across the world but environmental consequences and damage were not on the agenda.
Margaret Thorburn, 53, has lived in Isleworth for 50 years and has seen the development of the airport and continued disruption to residents’ lives.
She said: “You grow up living with the aircraft but the frequency has just gone up and up. Now you can’t even relax between aircraft because the relentless pressure of knowing the next one is coming disturbs your peace of mind.”
Mrs Thorburn admits that although moving has been a consideration in the past, it would mean leaving her friends and family, as well as a change in lifestyle that not all residents could do.
She said: “You learn to tolerate what is around you but when you hear it’s going to get worse you get angry and desperate.”
The protesters were supported by Plane Stupid, the direct action group against airport expansion.
More than 40 residents attended training sessions held by the group and have been advised on possible plans to disrupt Heathrow if the expansion is finally approved.
Richard George, from Plane Stupid, said: “While ministers like Douglas Alexander preach about action to stop climate change they’re concreting over local democratic opposition to new runways with their plans to cater for unnecessary and climate wrecking short haul flights. It’s not surprising that having failed through conventional protest, the residents have decided to up the ante.”
No arrests were made at the protest and Mr Alexander did not respond to any challenge by Dr Hunt.
Mrs Thorburn added: “We are getting so angry and will consider all available channels.”
The action by the protesters follows news, as reported in the Gazette last week, that an on-line petition against the expansion of Heathrow gained more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week.
The petition was launched in the House of Lords by 2M Group, an alliance of 12 local councils, including Hillingdon.