Protesters blockaded the entrance to a departure lounge at Manchester Airport yesterday to highlight the apparent contradiction between planned growth in air travel and the Government's commitment to cutting carbon emissions.
Seven activists from the Plane Stupid campaign handcuffed themselves for three hours in Terminal Three at Britain's fourth-largest airport, which hopes to double its passenger capacity to 50 million by 2030.
One of the protesters was Vanessa Hall, a Green Party representative on Manchester City Council, who accused the authority of hypocrisy by allowing the airport, which it part-owns, to expand while espousing the need to reduce carbon emissions. "I am disgusted," she said. "We aspire to be a green city but it is nonsense when you are expanding an airport."
The Green Party believes domestic air travel should be stopped and that rail services between London and Manchester should be improved to cope with passenger demand, because each flight on that route produces an estimated 0.87 tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. "The ration we need is about two tonnes per year," said Ms Hall, "but one flight is producing almost half of your ration of carbon."
Yesterday's protest was the largest by Plane Stupid since it set up the Camp for Climate Action near Heathrow in August. Its members have also chained themselves to the gates of Biggin Hill and Farnborough airports in protest at the use of private business jets, and set up camp on a barge transporting the wing of an A380 "superjumbo" from the Airbus plant in Broughton, Flintshire, to a construction factory in Toulouse, France.
However, a spokesman for Manchester Airport said the campaigners had mistimed yesterday's demonstration. "Terminal Three is at its busiest from 5am to 7am," he said. "They arrived at 7.30am, so they missed the main peak. I know they think this is a domestic terminal but it's not at all. A lot of international flights leave from here as well. People have earned the right to go on holiday. They have paid good money and worked hard all year."
In response to the protest, the Department for Transport insisted it took climate change "very seriously".
Meanwhile, the Future Heathrow organisation – which was set up by the airline industry to counter the movement against airport expansion – published a Populus poll of 1,203 people yesterday which said that half of the residents living near the west London airport would support the building of a third runway.