Last updated: Sept 2007


Lindsay Whalen finds out why the Camp for Climate Action pitched its tents outside BAA plc's main international office.


A quick clue might be that BAA's main international office lies at the heart of UK aviation. That's right, it's none other than Heathrow Airport. Do alarm bells ring when you realise that the company also operates Gatwick and Stansted Airports? Still not twigging?

Aviation is the fastest growing cause of climate change, while airports also damage the local environment and cause major upheavals for local residents. British airports operator BAA (formerly the British Airport Authority) was acquired by Spanish infrastructure company Grupo Ferrovial in 2006, and sits comfortably in its engineering and construction portfolio. Carol Barbone, Campaign Director at Stop Stansted Expansion, has accused Ferrovial of "being concerned only with profit regardless of the devastating environmental impact which its plans would have both locally and globally."

Ferrovial has interests in toll roads, car parks, real estate development, waste collection, water management, dams and reservoirs, as well as roads, rail and energy infrastructure. It also owns UK services group Amey, which is partnering with Bechtel and Jarvis to service the London Tube. (1)


Expansion plans

Climate change disaster scenarios may be stemmed if we act now, but we are being thwarted as BAA manufactures our desire to fly. The company operates seven airports in the UK, and is involved in airport operations in Australia, Hungary, Italy and the USA (2). The company has expansion aspirations in six of its UK airports, including its three London sites. It is currently 'consulting' with the community about building a second runway at Stansted, despite the majority of people around the Airport being against the expansion, which would mean passenger numbers rising from 22 million to around 80 million per year. 

According to Paul Morozzo, author of 'The Two Faces of BAA,' the company "is predicting 47.45 million passengers by 2030 for its Scottish airports." He went on to add that "Scotland only has a population of 5million!" (2). Airport expansion would also have knock-on effects on road traffic, congestion, air quality, noise and the surrounding landscape.


Revolving door

Climate change and questionable community consultation aside, BAA claims to be carrying out government policy as set out in the 2003 Aviation White Paper.

But according to Paul Morozzo, "the truth is that BAA lobbied the government hard to make airport expansion central to the White Paper." BAA was the main backer of the Freedom to Fly lobby group, which it used as a front group to make the economic case for the expansion of airports in advance of the White Paper.

The company was also criticised because 475 MPs, 78 MEPs and 284 members of the House of Lords were receiving free parking passes at BAA airports at the time. Brian Ross of Stop Stansted Expansion said "It’s an affront to our political system that BAA should be offering ‘freebies’ to the very people who have responsibility for making airport expansion decisions". (2)



BAA is pushing ahead to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport, but this has implications for nearby communities. A further runway would demolish 800 homes and wipe the village of Sipson off the map.This would demolish one school, place seven others close to the new runway and dozens under the flight path. 10,000 people would be left living within 600 metres of a new runway and 150,000 more would be exposed to aircraft noise. A further 400 homes could also be demolished for associated road schemes (3).


Campaign Group


Main campaign issue

Airport Watch Coalition opposed to aviation expansion that will damage the human or natural environment.

Camp for Climate Action Converging on Heathrow from 14-21st August 2007 to confront BAA's lobbying for airport expansion and manufacturing desire to fly. Also to compel governments to stop airport expansion and raise awareness of the damage done by flying and the need for individuals to fly much less.
Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign Community group (including over 100 District and Parish Councils) opposing any new runway at Gatwick.
HACAN Clearskies Campaigns for quieter, cleaner and safer conditions for residents living under Heathrow's flight paths.
No Third Runway Action Group (NOTRAG)

Umbrella organisation formed to fight against a third parallel runway for Heathrow. NoTRAG is funded by the London Borough of Hillingdon and represents residents across the borough on issues relating to the planned runway.

Plane Stupid

Direct action coalition calling for airport expansion plans to be scrapped, a tax on aviation fuel and an end to short haul flights

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE)

Formed in response to the Government’s consultation on expanding UK airports and, particularly, to oppose expansion plans for Stansted Airport.


Strength through numbers

The wealth of disparate groups campaigning against BAA's plans indicates a burgeoning movement taking action on climate change. In February 2007 Sipson residents stormed the stage at an aviation industry conference and disrupted an address being made by the Transport Minister, Douglas Alexander. Local resident Dr John Hunt said, "for decades the government has betrayed us.... In the 80s we were told Terminal 4 would be the last expansion, then in the 90s we were told Terminal 5 would be the end. "Now we're facing yet more noise and more concrete, and this time they want to wipe our entire community off the map." He added, "We're glad to be joined by our eco-warrior friends from Plane Stupid. They've done this kind of thing before and have been helpful with their direct action training over recent weeks. I think it's safe to say there's more of this to come."

The Camp for Climate Action took place for a week in August 2007 in the shadow of Heathrow Airpor, with low-impact living, over 100 workshops and a day of direct action. Many local groups supported the Climate Camp.

Geraldine Nicholson, chair of NOTRAG, said, "BAA should not be surprised that people are planning to come from all over the country to protest at their expansion plans." This was echoed by HACAN Chair John Stewart who said "The climate camp will be a striking symbol of the revulsion a growing number of people feel at the antics of the aviation industry."




1. viewed 07/07
2. 'The Two Faces of BAA,' AirportWatch, 02/06
3. Red Pepper, 01/04


First published Ethical Consumer issue 108, Sept/Oct 2007