UK aviation groups come together in London

by | 12 May 2023 | Actions, Members

Written by Stephen Clarke (on behalf of BAAN – Bristol Airport Action Network).

A gathering of more than 15 campaigning groups concerned with the growth of the aviation industry took place in London on April 21st, followed by a huge March Against Airport Expansion and picket of the Department for Transport.

Represented at the meeting in the morning were eight campaigning groups from various London and regional airports, large NGOs, policy groups, think tanks and sympathetic law firms. Stay Grounded sent two representatives from Austria (who, of course, travelled there by train).

Coming Together

The meeting – which was convened by (BAAN) – had a number of objectives. The first was to physically meet each other, after so many hours spent in remote Zoom meetings it was wonderful to make a personal connection and to have the opportunity to really develop links. 

Secondly, we wanted to see how we could work together. All of the groups at the meeting focus on specific issues related to the expansion of airports and the number of flights. For some it is the issue of noise, for others, it is the growth in private jet use. For BAAN and for many others in the room, it is the amount of extra carbon being produced by the rapidly accelerating number of flights that this Government is planning.

Whatever the priorities of each group, we hoped that the groups would all have an overlapping interest in stopping the number of flights growing. We wanted to see whether this was an area where all the groups in the room (and the others who were unable to attend) could combine in a new national campaign. 

Demands to Counter Aviation

There were many issues raised during the wide-ranging discussions, including:

  • Carbon emissions not being allowed to be considered on a local planning level
  • Non-CO2 emissions largely being ignored in assessments of aviation’s climate impact
  • The over-reliance on technological solutions and the lack of any demand management in the Jet Zero Strategy
  • The lack of consideration of the cumulative carbon impact of a number of different airports with existing expansion plans
  • The enormous subsidies received by the aviation industry and the lack of a just and adequate taxation structure
  • The need to involve trade unions in the discussions concerning the transition to a greener economy
  • The social justice issue of those who fly least being the most impacted by climate change
  • The fact that the main policy and planning documents concerning airport expansion (both for the London Airports and the regional ones) were simply not-fit-for-purpose and needed to be updated to take account of the climate and ecological crises and the UK’s commitment to net-zero by 2050.   
People holding banner stating "Tax aviation, Make Polluters Pay"
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© Richard Baxter

After discussion, it became apparent that, while individual groups attending had their own specific interests and agendas – whether topic-based or regionally specific – the majority of them were still interested in supporting a national campaign. Because of time constraints, no detailed discussions about what this campaign might look like took place but it was suggested that it could be as inclusive and wide-ranging as ‘No Airport Expansion’.

It was decided that the enthusiasm in the room justified further thought and discussion around this idea and that a draft structure and strategy for the campaign would be worked on and circulated. 

An effort would also be made to contact those groups active in the UK who had not been able to make the meeting (and any groups reading this who would like to be involved are invited to email Steve Clarke at

March Against Airport Expansion

When the meeting was finished, many of the attendees walked to Trafalgar Square to join the aviation-themed march organised by the Bristol branch of Extinction Rebellion and BAAN. We were absolutely delighted with the numbers on this single-issue march, estimated by the press and stewards as over 5,000 strong. 

This included a 400-person climate choir gathered from around the country, the biggest ever gathering of Red Rebels and Landing Crew, and many ordinary members of the public who understand how important an issue the accelerating rise of aviation passenger numbers is. 

Landing crew - credits: BAAN
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© David Mathias

The police closed the roads to facilitate the march in view of the numbers and we proceeded slowly from Trafalgar Square down past 10 Downing St, through Parliament Square and then to Horseferry Rd where we mass-picketed the Department for Transport. During the three-hour picket there were impassioned and knowledgeable speeches from representatives of many of the aviation groups; singing, organised dancing and plenty of noise. Those inside the Department for Transport were certainly aware of our presence but to make sure, we delivered a letter to the Secretary of State. 

The march received good publicity including a large photograph on the front page of the next day’s Times and features on various broadcast media including Sky News.

We very much hope that the actions taken on this day will be the start of closer co-operation between the various groups trying to fight back against the UK Government’s growth agenda for aviation. During the pandemic, there was a danger that we were working in our individual bunkers to a certain extent. But, as the climate crisis grows and more and more airports try to get on with their expansion plans before a possible change of Government, campaigning groups need to share information, support each other and find real strength in unity.

Thank you to all who helped organise these events; a lot of work was involved.