Transition Heathrow is a grassroots group working to build resilient Heathrow communities
Transition Heathrow is a project that aims to take the central grounding principles of the Transition Towns movement and apply them in an overtly political setting. We are aiming to further promote Heathrow as an iconic point of positive resistance, of transition justice and as a high profile example of grassroots solutions to climate change and peak oil. Transition Heathrow is bringing together all the local groups from anti-third runway campaigns such as NO TRAG and HACAN as well as the local allotment associations, to build a platform where these organisations can work together and unite different areas of interest and energy, collectively creating a stronger sense of community in the villages around Heathrow.
Whilst we are using this project to engage in a wider political movement that fights for and creates grassroots solutions to climate change and peak oil, we are also hoping to develop a replicable example of worker and community resilience which can help to bring about a just transition to a sustainable future. Such resilience should also stave off future threats to the community of all kinds as well as the threats of peak oil and climate change.
In the last 8 months since Transition Heathrow applied for funding from APE, our project ‘Grow Heathrow’ has flourished into a community hub where not only the growing has been a huge success this season, but also the base for all other areas of the Transition Heathrow initiative. On the 1st of March 2010 Transition Heathrow swooped on the abandoned market garden site in Sipson. Drawing from the strong local history of market gardens which supplied fresh fruit and veg for the rest of London, residents and activists have transformed the derelict site into a beacon of community strength. Together we have removed 30 tons of rubbish from the site, re-glazed 2 of the greenhouses and successfully planted a huge variety of fruit and veg from seed. A wild-flower meadow was sown, and has seen its first summer in full bloom, attracting a variety of wildlife. A pond dug, compost toilet and rocket stoves built, solar panels put up; the site is an educational space for all ages and abilities to come and get stuck in to building a positive sustainable space.
The main events that have happened on the land have been a three day free permaculture course where both residents and activist came to the Grow Heathrow site to learn about permaculture design, whilst after the 3rd Runway was dropped we held a banquet on the site for 80 people as a celebration of the successful campaigning and an official site opening. A three course meal with home grown food was served and speeches were given from people who have been involved from the beginning made the evening a huge success.
One of the main aims of Transition Heathrow and the project Grow Heathrow is to involve the community as much as possible, engaging residents in the process and progression of the site so it can sustain itself the future. We have done this through newsletters, open weekly meetings and regular updates on our websites with blogs and upcoming events inviting people to get involved in all aspects of the project.
Engaging workers at Heathrow airport is an extremely important aspect of the campaign: showing support and solidarity during the BA strikes, a ‘flying picket’ was held with around 25 people on bikes cycling around the airport giving out flyers to the workers and inviting them to come to the Grow Heathrow site.
We have now reached a point at Grow Heathrow where the future of the site is uncertain. The squatted community garden was served with eviction papers in late August 2010. Working with our local MP John McDonnell, who has supported Transition Heathrow from the very beginning, we have engaged the land owners in negotiations to potentially buy or rent the land to ensure its future as a community hub. Despite a brilliant defence put together by ASS, statements of support and a petition signed by around 700 people the landowners still preceded with taking us to court.
At court around 30 local residents and activists came to show their support outside with baskets of produce grown on site and placards. The decision was adjourned and moved to the London County Court. We have yet to hear the next court date but feel confident in the support shown and our ongoing negotiating that there is still hope to keep the Grow Heathrow site for the long term.
The achievements already made in the last year of Transition Heathrow show the amazing potential for this project in the future. In the coming months we are working to complete a workshop space for bike maintenance, woodwork and metalwork whilst the next event planned is an autumn ‘scrumping’ celebration of the fruit trees in the area to bring people together to harvest local produce.
To acknowledge what we have in our local areas makes people proud to be a part of their community and fight to defend what is being threatened. We welcome people to come and visit the site at any time and be involved in the Transition Heathrow initiative in whatever way they can.