Environmental groups and local authorities representing nearly 8 million people have condemned the government's decision to allow plans for a third runway at Heathrow to go ahead. They say it totally destroys the government's environmental credibility - the UK is the only country with legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions - and would lead to court cases and civil unrest.
"Expanding Heathrow shatters the government's international reputation on climate change - and seriously threatens the UK's ability to meet its targets for cutting emissions. We need bold and urgent action to create a low-carbon economy, not more backing for the climate-wrecking activities of the aviation industry," said Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins.
Greenpeace's executive director, John Sauven, said: "This... will shred the last vestiges of Brown's environmental credibility. An expanded Heathrow would become the single biggest emitter of CO2 in Britain. Labour MPs will lose seats over thiThe new Air Traffic Control Tower at Heathrow Airports as the anti-runway movement grows and grows. We'll fight it every step of the way because the lives of millions of people depend on us all slashing carbon emissions."
The coalition includes the National Trust, which has more than 3 million members, 20 local authorities (representing 4 million voters, all in London and south-east England), the RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, (with a combined 2.6 million members) will meet later today to outline their immediate plans to fight the proposals. This is expected to include legal moves and direct action.
Research published this morning suggests overwhelming opposition to the plans near the airport. A survey of 2,000 Hounslow residents found 96% against the runway with people citing health, noise pollution, safety and climate change as their main concerns.
The proposals were described as "the last gasp of the dinosaurs," by John Stewart, the chair of west London group Hacan, which represents 5,000 residents and 60 civic groups. "There will be fury at this decision, which flies in the face of the facts. But it will mean that campaigners will redouble their efforts to stop expansion. People will fight the government in the courts, in their communities, in the town halls and, if necessary, on the tarmac of Heathrow airport. All the warm words in the world about high-speed rail and environmental safeguards will not hide the fact that the government has decided to give the green light to expansion."
The people living nearest the airport accused government of siding with business against people. Geraldine Nicholson, chair of NoTRAG, said: "This decision will only intensify the determination of the opposition to expansion at Heathrow. When the rights of the aviation industry are more important than human health and take away our rights to breathe clean air and get a good night's sleep then the political process has failed. And when passengers' rights are seen as more important than the rights of ordinary working people to live in communities of their choice in homes they've paid for this is a breeding ground for civil unrest".
Earlier this week, Greenpeace revealed it had bought an acre of land at the heart of the development. Its plan is to divide the land between thousands of owners, to make any future compulsory purchase order extremely complex. So far more than 10,000 people have applied.