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Climate campaigners arrive at Heathrow camp

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

LONDON, Aug 13 (Reuters) More climate change campaigners are expected to arrive today to join protests against expansion plans at Britain's Heathrow airport.

About 150 protesters began arriving at the ''Camp for Climate Action'' yesterday, erecting marquees and setting up toilets on land north of Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports.

They say they have ''legally occupied'' the site, which is on the route of a proposed third runway at Heathrow and is around 800 metres from the headquarters of airport operator BAA, owned by Spanish construction and services group Ferrovial.

Organisers say up to 2,000 people will attend the week-long demonstrations and workshops due to start tomorrow, with ''24 hours of mass action'' promised for next Sunday.

''It will be direct action -- we will cost the aviation industry dearly,'' the group said on its Web site. ''It will be civil disobedience -- we will act within the bounds we set no those of BAA lawyers.'' A similar camp last year close to the Drax power station in Yorkshire by 400 protesters led to 40 arrests.

The Heathrow protest is expected to cause disruption during one of the busiest times of the year for the airport, which is due to be used by 1.5 million passengers during the week.

Simon Baugh, Head of Government Affairs at BAA, said they were working with police and security officials after the protesters issued leaflets saying they intended to close the airport ''through breathtaking mass direct action''.

''These are not precautions that we are taking without any threat being there,'' Baugh told BBC radio. ''We're not about stopping lawful peaceful protests.'' He said BAA was aware of concerns about the Heathrow expansion plans but said direct action would hit innocent families who had saved to go on holiday.

''We accept climate change is happening, we accept that the cause is very likely to be man made, and we accept that there must be radical cuts in carbon dioxide emissions and that aviation should enjoy no special treatment,'' he said.

Gemma Davis, a spokeswoman for the Camp for Climate Change, said disruption to passengers was not the main aim.

''We're not here to try to disrupt passengers; we're here to try to disrupt BAA,'' she told the BBC, but conceded that disruption to airport users would be an unintended consequence.

''Climate change is the biggest issue going. If we don't take action now on climate change then we're really facing an enormous catastrophe,'' she added.

BAA won a court injunction last week barring one group of environmental activists from taking disruptive action during the protests, but peaceful and lawful protests can still go ahead.

The High Court ruling has restricted the actions of Plane Stupid, one of the organisers of the protest.

BAA had tried to ban people from four different groups.

Environmental umbrella group AirportWatch said that would have hit millions of its members in its affiliated bodies, which include groups as diverse as Greenpeace, the National Trust and Friends of the Earth.

BAA runs London airports Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, and four other airports in Britain.

REUTERS RJ ND1424

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