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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
Airport growth plans face attack
Gatwick Airport
Gatwick airport is protected from expansion until 2019
Pressure groups across England are preparing to oppose any proposals to expand some of the country's largest airports.

Local residents have already formed campaign groups in areas including Heathrow, Birmingham and Kent.

And if the government presses ahead with moves to build new runways to cope with growing demand for flights, more clashes are likely involving planners, householders, environmental groups and airport bosses.

Local pressure groups could even find themselves fighting each other in pursuit of their own interests - with some anti-airport campaigns backing expansion at rival sites.

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In environmental terms, it is hard to think of a worse site for an airport in the south-east than Cliffe Marshes

Chris Corrigan - RSPB
The south-east is likely to see the largest expansion programme.

As well as plans to increase capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, there is also a proposal to build a new airport at Cliffe Marshes in the Thames Estuary.

The Cliffe Marshes scheme has attracted opposition from heritage groups and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

But groups opposed to expansion at Heathrow believe Cliffe Marshes to be a preferential option.

'Direct action'

Hayes and Harlington MP Jim McDonnell described Heathrow proposals as "taking the cheapest and dirty option of adding runway after runway to existing airports rather than building a new one in the Thames Estuary".

At Cliffe Marshes, RSPB South East regional manager Chris Corrigan said: "In environmental terms, it is hard to think of a worse site for an airport in the south-east."

Back at Heathrow, John Stewart, chairman of the anti-noise group Hacan ClearSkies, said: "People are angry and the most respectable of residents are talking about direct action."

The consultation paper is also likely to look at the potential to increase flights at regional airports.

Heathrow protestors
Heathrow protestors have promised direct action
One plan is to move Birmingham airport slightly east and add a second runway.

This has angered the Birmingham Airport anti-Noise Group (Bang) which has long campaigned against the second runway proposal.

James Botham, secretary of Bang, said: "I suspect that talk of a second airport in Birmingham is a ploy to get residents to accept a new runway and expansion at the existing airport as a lesser of two evils.

"Bang will fight any proposed expansion at Birmingham."

Moving the airport east will also anger the Mind the Gap pressure group which campaigns for the retention of the Meriden Gap green belt area.

The group launched a sustained protest against Birmingham's bid for the national stadium which would have been built just to the east of the airport.

The government has already said that doing nothing is not an option, so the only question which remains is where the extra planes will land.


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05 Jul 02 | England
01 Mar 02 | England
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