A crowd of people at a protest march walk towards the camera. they are holding a banner that reads "No Airport Expansion".

Bristol Airport expansion campaigners head mass protests in London

Local anti-airport expansion campaigners will be at the forefront of mass protests in London this weekend.

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) will join tens of thousands of Extinction Rebellion activists from across the UK and descend on the capital for four days of protests, dubbed “The Big One”, involving demonstrations on Parliament Square and pickets outside government department buildings. 

BAAN will picket the Department for Transport, responsible for decisions regarding airport expansion. They will do so alongside anti-airport expansion campaigns from around the country, including HACAN, GACC and GALBA, who campaign against expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick and Leeds and Bradford airports respectively, as well as Flight Free, Stay Grounded and Possible.

Read the latest in the Bristol Airport expansion saga here.

Steve Clarke, from BAAN, said: ‘As soon as Extinction Rebellion announced that it was co-ordinating The Big One in London we viewed it as a golden opportunity to bring together as many groups from across the UK who were campaigning against the expansion of their local and regional airports. 

“We want to send a clear message to the Government and the aviation industry that it needs to halt its irresponsible plans for growth until such time that it can guarantee low carbon flights.

“The spurious and ambiguous promises of sustainable aviation for the future do little to address the climate emergency we are facing right now.”

Echoing recommendations of the Climate Change Committee, BAAN wants to see the government introduce policies of demand management that would reduce demand for flights and take away the argument for airport expansion. 

They also want reform to the planning system to take account of carbon emissions from airport expansion. At present, airports looking to expand do not have to account for the emissions from the extra flights expansion would entail – estimated to be equal to one million tonnes of CO2 per year in the case of Bristol Airport’s expansion plans. 

Other demands include putting VAT on aviation fuel, banning private jets, introducing a frequent flyer levy, and transferring subsidies – worth billions of pounds each year – from the aviation sector to public transport. 

BAAN will gather at the foot of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square at 1.30pm on Friday, April 21 before marching with performers from the Red Rebels and Landing Crew and accompanied by the newly formed Climate Choir.

There will be e speeches outside the Department for Transport. The event is devised to be family friendly, peaceful and non-disruptive, say BAAN. 

five people dressed in red robes stand on grass. Behind them is a blue, clouded sky.
Red Rebels with the Landing Crew behind them at a protest outside Bristol Airport in August 2020. Image: BAAN.

Bristol Airport was granted planning permission to expand from 10 million to 12 million passengers a year following a long-fought battle against BAAN, who tried to stop the expansion first via North Somerset Council, then in a planning inquiry and finally in a High Court Challenge. 

The group is now preparing and crowd funding to challenge the expansion in the Court of Appeal. 

There are 20 airports across the UK seeking to expand, with each threatening to add to the UK’s carbon emissions from aviation. 

Under current legislation, neither the airports themselves nor the government are required to account for the majority of those emissions. International flights, which make up 95% of the flights in and out of the UK, are not accounted for in present carbon budgets. Government policies, like Jet Zero and Making Best Use, rely on emissions trading schemes to account for aviation emissions. 

Did you go this protest? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or at thebristolactivist@protonmail.com.

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