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Plane Stupid activists stage demo ahead of Heathrow runway protest court hearing


The protest took place at Heathrow Airport

The protest took place at Heathrow Airport

The protest took place at Heathrow Airport

Defiant climate change activists have staged a protest minutes before appearing in court accused of taking part in a demonstration that saw delays and flights grounded at Heathrow Airport.

Thirteen members of activist group Plane Stupid allegedly cut a hole in a fence and chained themselves to railings on the north runway on July 13 in a protest against airport expansion.

But before their hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court in west London, they took another stand, arriving together and stopping for a statement to be read on their behalf.

Surrounded by supporters - four dressed in polar bear costumes and others wearing David Cameron masks - carrying placards, the 13 arrived to chants of "No ifs, no buts, no third runway!".

One of the accused, Sheila Menon, read: "Some of us are part of the local community that is already feeling the hugely negative impact of existing air traffic from Heathrow by way of noise and air pollution, and blight on the area."

She added that the UK had more than enough capacity to deal with the "ordinary people" taking their annual holidays, and that airport expansion is being driven by a "minority of wealthy frequent flyers".

Menon concluded that the Government was failing to act responsibly, adding: "It is against this background and the failure of democratic processes, we believe our actions were reasonable, justifiable and necessary."

The activists are charged with aggravated trespass and entering a security restricted area of an aerodrome.

The demonstration at around 3.30am on July 13 caused delays for passengers around the world and 22 flights out of the airport were cancelled.

It came after a long-awaited report recommended a new runway should be built at Heathrow rather than Gatwick.

After three years of investigation, the Airports Commission said Heathrow was best placed to provide "urgently required" capacity.

But environmentalists warned that building a new runway there will make it harder to reduce air pollution and climate change emissions.

The defendants are:

:: Rebecca Holly Sanderson, 27, of Newton Road, Machynlleth, Powys

:: Richard Steven Hawkins, 32, and Kara Lauren Moses, 31, both of Heol y Doll, Machynlleth, Powys

:: Ella Gilbert, 23, of Magdalen Street, Norwich

:: Melanie Strickland, 32, of Borwick Avenue, Waltham Forest, north-east London

:: Danielle Louise Paffard, 28, of Blenhiem Grove, Peckham, south-east London

:: Graham Edward James Thompson, 42, of Durlston Road, Hackney, north-east London

:: Sheila Menon, 43, of Pellerin Road, Hackney

:: Cameron Joseph Kaye, 23, Edward Thacker, 26, Alistair Craig Tamlit, 27, and Sam Sender, 23, all of Kenwood Close, Sipson, West Drayton, west London

:: Robert Anthony Basto, 67, of Blackborough Road, Reigate, Surrey