Wednesday, March 23, 2011

High Court setback serves to help campaign take off

This is an article from This Docklands 24 on the FTF Campaign. You can read it from HERE...

A negative High Court decision would derail many campaigns, but for Fight the Flights (FTF) it has had the opposite effect.

Membership for the group, which was formed in 2008 in response to the application to increase London City Airport (LCA) flights by 50 per cent, is rising rapidly since the decision, according to campaign member Barry Griffin.

“Membership has tripled since the court case because somany people are unhappy with what’s happening,” he says. “It’s now around the 200 mark – people on the mailing list and those who keep in contact.

“We have business owners, unemployed people and members from all ethnic backgrounds.”

FTF’s legal team are working on an appeal to the January decision to allow annual flight traffic to increase to 120,000. The group, made up of 12 core members, now claims cross-borough support from Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest. But initially it struggled to get any recognition.

“At the start we were very polite and thought that as residents the councils would listen to us,” said FTF member (and chairman of his own campaignStop City Airport Masterplan) Alan Haughton.

“We were knocking on doors and having doors slammed in our face – and and at some point we had to kick the door in basically and say actually you have to listen.”

Mr Griffin, who works in marketing by day and handles FTF’s online activities during his spare time, stresses there is no anti-LCA sentiment.

“I have flown from LCA before – I can see the viability and why people would want to use it but it’s not down to saying, well, ‘let’s make ourselves bigger because we want a larger catchment area’. We’re just against the expansion.” The group questions the overall need for flight expansion in London and welcomes high-speed rail and projects such as Crossrail.

But the number of flights isn’t its sole grievance. Mr Griffin, who has livedin an apartment in West Thamesmead since 2005, a mile from the tip of the runway, says the type of planes that use the airport is equally crucial to the case.

“At first I wasn’t affected or I wasn’t as bothered because it was mainly props [propelbyler instead of jet-propelled planes].

“The key change was from props to jets. The airport had around 30 per cent jets but with an increase to around 60 per cent of jets, that is going to have a dramatic effect on your lifestyle. ”

Friends of the Earth represented FTF at the court case against Newham Council, but the group has not been ‘hijacked’ by non-local environmental organisations, says Mr Griffin.

“We are generally interested locals that are now looking at the bigger picture and are interested in the wider environmental aspects.”

He maintains FTF just wants equal media coverage for its concerns, and a two-way dialogue with the airport’s management, both of which he says hasn’t happened so far.

“The message we were getting from the press was the airport was a fantastic business, it’s a viable business, one of the biggest businesses in the area, so of course we’re going to report everything and anything that goes on there.

“But we are a campaign that also has information and detail about the airport”