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Hillingdon Friends of the Earth and the campaign against Heathrow Expansion

Rosemary Bennett, Coordinator of Hillingdon Friends of the Earth


On 27th February, following a long campaign, High Court judges blocked the expansion of Heathrow Airport because the Government had "unlawfully" not assessed its impact on Climate Change. Rosemary Bennett discusses the role Hillingdon's own Friends of the Earth Group played in helping bring about this result.

Our local Friends of the Earth group, which covers the whole of the Hillingdon Borough, has opposed Heathrow expansion on environmental grounds since 2005. With the entire land area of the airport being in the borough, we were always going to play as big a part as we were able in the campaign. However, the consortium of West London FoE groups led by Nic Ferriday (of which we are a member) have invested incalculable time and effort over the years, so the victory is as much theirs as ours alone.

We took part in many marches and rallies between 2005 and 2009, the most notable being when we formed the big ‘NO’ in a field in Harmondsworth in May 2008 after an empowering march along the Bath Road with 1000s of other protesters, many of whom were local residents.

Over the years we acted very much in a supporting role for the residents who would have been most affected by Heathrow expansion. We kept in touch with them by attending their local events, often with john McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington present, meeting up with them at Heathrow consultations, events where we both had information stalls, marching with them in Central London and close to Heathrow, and inviting them to speak at our monthly meetings. I would like to think that they always knew we were there, from the beginning in 2005 and more recently when the 3rd runway threat reappeared in 2015, despite David Cameron’s pledge before the 2010 election, “no ifs, no buts” promise to oppose a new runway at Heathrow.

After intense lobbying of politicians to reconsider Heathrow expansion, in 2012 the Government set up the Airports Commission to look at options for airport expansion in London and the South East. In July 2015 it recommended a new north-west runway at Heathrow, which was approved by the Government in October 2016.

Throughout 2018 and 2019 we demonstrated outside Heathrow’s consultations on airspace changes and 3rd runway proposals. We teamed up with other groups such as Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) and offered visitors alternative leaflets and literature.

In March 2019, FoE and Hillingdon Council along with other councils and environmental groups took Heathrow to court over air quality, noise and climate change targets. They initially lost, but were granted an appeal which was heard in October 2019. On 27th February 2020, FoE won their part of the appeal, as the government did not consider the Paris Agreement on Climate Change when agreeing to Heathrow expansion. HFoE were at the Courts of Justice to celebrate the victory.

In their monthly local group feature, which can be found on their website, Friends of the Earth made this comment about Hillingdon FoE, ‘The group like to think that they influenced Friends of the Earth's decision to take Heathrow to court - and they're right’. Of this we can be very proud.

If you would like to find out more or get involved with future campaigning, please email us on:

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