Plane Stupid, the group behind the disruption at Stansted, said it intends to repeat the action at Heathrow, where plans are under consideration to build a third runway. Transport secretary Geoff Hoon will announce next month whether the proposed runway will go ahead.“There are plans [to repeat the protest at Heathrow], absolutely,” said Leyla Deen, a spokeswoman for Plane Stupid in an interview with The Guardian. “We intend to continue to directly challenge airport expansion. We have only seven years to begin to get our carbon emissions down in Britain, and our carbon emissions are still going up. This is the only responsible thing to do.”
More than 50 demonstrators from the group cut through fencing of Stansted in the early hours of Monday morning, in a protest against plans to build a second runway. The airport was forced to close for five hours, resulting in tens of thousands of passengers stranded as dozens of flights were cancelled and many others seriously delayed.
The protesters used bolt-cutters to break through a perimeter fence at 3.15am and set up their protest camp. They chained and bolted themselves to security fencing they brought in with them.
It took police hours to cut them free and it was not until 8.30am - almost five hours after the protest had started - that the airport was able to resume flights.
Officers arrested 57 activists and took them away in an airport shuttle bus.
Ryanair cancelled 52 flights in and out of the airport. In a statement it called for an investigation “as to why the BAA Stansted security has once again failed to keep Stansted secure and open to the travelling public”.
Ryanair went on: “It is unacceptable that the travel plans of thousands of passengers have been disrupted because BAA Stansted security have failed to remove a number of protesters.”
Plane Stupid issued a statement saying the disruption had stopped “the release of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere”.
The lobby group said aviation was the fastest growing source of emissions and already contributed to at least 13 per cent of the UK’s carbon budget.
In October the government gave the go ahead for construction of a second runway at Stansted. Last month, another organisation, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), launched a High Court appeal against the decision. SSE said the Government was disregarding the climate change and noise impacts of the expansion at the Essex airport.
Airport officials said there would be a review of airport security but also defended the quick action taken.
“We do not run a fortress, we run an airport. Security staff and police intercepted the protesters and no-one got on to the runway,” a spokesman said.
A statement from the airport added: “We are happy to engage in serious debates on airport expansion, and we respect people’s right to protest within the bonds of the law. However, any unlawful or irresponsible behaviour aimed at disrupting the smooth operation of the airport is unacceptable.
“People should engage in the relevant independent planning inquiries in an open, honest and safe way. We will, of course, investigate this incident and where there are lessons to learn we will do so.”