Anti-Heathrow runway eco-squatters resist eviction inside ‘Great Escape’ tunnel

Campaigners are hiding in a pitch black “Great Escape” tunnel to try to stop the eviction of eco-squatters who are protesting against a third Heathrow runway.

The band of three or four, who are unnamed, crawled into the tunnel sealed by a trapdoor after spotting police and a specialist eviction team, who moved in to remove the small community of 20-30 squatters.

They say they will stay in the 20-metre tunnel, which has just one access point, with food and water supplies until the bailiffs end the eviction process.

Grow Heathrow, the environmental protest camp situated in Sipson village, west London, was visited by the National Eviction Team on Tuesday morning.

Willo, 27, who has been a resident at the camp for three years, said he spotted the bailiffs entering the gate to the land, adding: “I was in my van outside to keep a lookout, as we heard an eviction team was coming.

“When I saw them arrive, I sounded my horn and everyone got into their defences, they went high and low to slow down the eviction process.

“Bailiffs cut their way through the gate by smashing the hinges off.”

The group has rehearsed this many times, and calls its hiding spots “defences” which have the aim of deterring bailiffs and any authority from moving with speed, ultimately forcing them to give up.

The National Eviction Team, which was responsible for evicting travellers from Dale Farm in Crays Hill, Essex, in 2011, has begun moving out some residents.

Heathrow third runway protest
Officials arriving at the group’s community site (Grow Heathrow/PA)

Specially trained eviction-climbing teams have removed several protesters who were “locked-on” at height.

Willo said: “We will sit ourselves down and discuss what to do next.”

The Metropolitan Police said a helicopter was used during the operation, as the National Police Air Service and officers were supporting High Court enforcement officers to prevent a breach of the peace following a planned eviction notice.

The Grow Heathrow Twitter account urged supporters to visit the site in Hillingdon to show their opposition to the bailiffs.

Another resident, Jack Turlock, said: “We are completely committed to continuing support for the local community. Airport expansion will make their homes uninhabitable.

“As caretakers of this land, we’ve cleared 100 tonnes of rubbish, returning the land to an ecological habitat and community garden. We would like to continue a conversation with the owner, Imran Malik, outlining a community-based educational project.”

If the airport succeeds in its campaign for a third runway, the land could be bulldozed.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, once said of the group: “This inspirational project has not only dramatically improved this derelict site but it has lifted the morale of the whole local community in the campaign against the third runway and in planning a sustainable future for our area.”

The camp has been at the location for almost 10 years and some members have lived there the whole time.

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