Swampy loses ground in runway battle

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The Independent Online
Protesters occupying the site of Manchester Airport's planned second runway lost their battle to avoid eviction yesterday as Swampy, the star eco-warrior, was fined pounds 400 for criminal damage at the site.

The High Court in Manchester granted applications for possession orders by the airport, waiting to start work on the pounds 172m project.

The protesters, renowned for occupying a network of trees and tunnels on the site in the Bollin Valley, Cheshire, said they planned an immediate appeal against the decision.

The orders, granted by district judge David Shannon, give the Under Sheriff of Cheshire, Randal Hibbett, the right to start evicting campaigners from the site to allow contractors AMEC and Tarmac to start work.

Phil Benn, one of 57 protesters named at the hearing, said they would try to win an adjournment and a full trial for their case. "We are seeking an adjournment until judicial review. If any evictions were to take place now it would be extremely perilous.

"The judge refused to accept there were important matters requiring a full trial.

"It was absolutely outrageous that the judge refused to allow evidence which demonstrates the airport does not own some of the land for which they are seeking possession."

Chris Mail, legal co-ordinator for the protesters, said papers requesting leave to appeal would be lodged today.

He said the campaigners had discovered that three pockets of land on the site were not registered to the airport or anyone else.

Mr Mail yesterday filed preliminary registration of the land in his and his wife's name and would be using that as part of the grounds for appeal.

The protesters said they were now ready to begin defying any attempts at eviction, which could start at any time.

Swampy, alias 23-year-old Daniel Hooper, was fined pounds 400 at Crewe magistrates court for breaching conditions of bail by going within four miles of the site.

Swampy became a household name in February when he was the last to emerge from deep tunnels dug under the A30 bypass in Devon. He has since joined forces with campaigners against the Manchester runway who have tunnelled under the site to prevent building work

After the hearing, Swampy, who was on his way to have a wash and a shave when he was arrested on Wednesday night, said he would go back to the site and dig more tunnels.

The activist said: "I pleaded guilty because I wanted to get my bail conditions dropped so I could go back to the site.

"I don't feel that what I did was wrong. I know who the real guilty people are - the people who are destroying the land. We are prepared to be locked up if that is what it takes."