Activists buy land to block runway plans

PLANS to build a third runway at London’s congested Heathrow Airport hit a snag yesterday when Greenpeace and other environmental activists announced they had purchased a substantial plot of land where the planned runway would be built.

The coalition, including actress Emma Thompson, comedian Alistair McGowan and environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, purchased property that is about half the size of a football field in the village of Sipson, where hundreds of homes will be razed if the runway plans go ahead.

The property is on the site of the proposed runway, Greenpeace director John Sauven said yesterday.

“The legal owners of the site will block the runway at every stage through the planning process and in the courts,” he said.

“They will never sell the land to Spanish-owned airport operator BAA, and if it comes to it, many thousands of people will be prepared to peacefully defend their field in person, standing in front of bulldozers and blocking construction.”

The new owners believe the British government will eventually be able to take control of the land through “compulsory purchase” laws, but they believe they can slow the process down substantially.

The coalition announced its surprise purchase as British prime minister Gordon Brown and his cabinet were grappling with the issue of the proposed runway, which business leaders say is vital if Heathrow is to maintain its status as Europe’s busiest airport.

The cabinet is divided on the issue, which pits environmental concerns — and Britain’s commitment to fighting climate change by reducing carbon emissions — against economic growth and job creation.

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