LONDON – Campaigners fighting the expansion of London's Heathrow airport opened a new front on Tuesday when they announced they had bought land earmarked for the construction of a third runway.
Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson is among those involved in the purchase, which environmental group Greenpeace said threw a "massive spanner" into the nine-billion-pound expansion plan.
They said they would fight any attempts to buy the land by compulsory purchase, and Thompson added: "We'll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables."
The government's decision on whether to expand Heathrow, the world's biggest international passenger air hub, is expected within weeks.
It has been delayed as ministers thrash out the pros and cons of the project, which has pitted business groups and airlines against environmental groups and local residents.
More than 40 MPs from the ruling Labour party and London mayor Boris Johnson, a member of the main opposition Conservatives, are opposed, arguing there is no economic need for a third runway and it will increase pollution.
But business and trades union leaders believe the project is vital to the economy, and would create at least 50,000 new jobs.
"Only modernisation at Heathrow will keep Britain on the global transport map and stop our cities and industries losing out to our competitors in Europe," said Derek Simpson, joint leader of trades union Unite.
About 250 anti-expansion protesters gathered at Heathrow on Monday, police said, dressed in clothes in the style of the early 1900s.
Some dressed as suffragettes, the activists who campaigned to get women the vote and whose peaceful tactics they sought to emulate.
With a string quartet playing in the background, the activists chatted, sang and sipped from champagne glasses.
"We are trying to emulate what our ancestors did for us to make a positive change, in a civilised fashion, for future generations," said campaigner Dan Glass, who was dressed as a chimney sweep.
"We have got to do something now because if we don't, the situation will get so much worse."
A simultaneous protest attended by about 50 people took place at Manchester airport.