Grow Heathrow squatters pledge 'peaceful' resistance to bailiffs

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Media captionSquatters protesting against the planned expansion of Heathrow airport face eviction after a four-year stand.

Squatters occupying land near Heathrow in protest at the airport's expansion say they will "peacefully" resist bailiffs.

Some 15 families moved on to a derelict site near Sipson in 2010, creating a garden they call Grow Heathrow.

The land is privately owned and after a lengthy legal battle, the High Court ruled in favour of the owner and ordered the protesters to leave.

They had been due to be evicted on Friday morning.

Two men from a security company approached the site, but denied they were bailiffs before leaving the area.

'Not feeling nervous'

Grow Heathrow's solicitor Jayesh Kunwardia said he believed the owner of the site, Imran Malik, had applied for the eviction notice from County Court bailiffs who would not have had the practical ability to evict the protesters.

Legally, the bailiffs are able to try to evict the campaigners at a later date.

Paddy Reynolds, a member of Grow Heathrow, said: "We plan to peacefully meet them with a barricade of music and dancing and singing.

"If they were to get past that and go inside the actual site, they'd find there's lots of people there prepared to not very easily be moved from the site, in a very peaceful way."

BBC London 94.9 reporter Richard Main, who was at the scene, said Mr Malik had entered and left after taking a letter from local Labour MP John McDonnell.

The MP for Hayes and Harlington has been trying to arrange for the protesters either to buy or rent the land.

Eddy Charles, who has been a resident at the site for one year, said: "The owner and the bailiffs have arrived but I can't imagine they will do anything today now.

"We are not feeling nervous any more. It's been warming to see such great numbers turn up and try and protect this space. I think everyone is feeling very upbeat and empowered."

Earlier, protesters had locked the gates and barricaded themselves in, before later opening them.

'Wholehearted support'

The local authority Hillingdon Council, is opposed to the airport's expansion, but its deputy leader David Simmonds said he could not condone any illegal action.

"We'd like to see them treated sympathetically, and we've been very grateful for the support that they've provided in that local campaign, which has helped in the recent past to persuade the government that expansion shouldn't go ahead," he said.

Mr McDonnell said he "wholeheartedly" supported the protesters.

"These are people who not only helped us fight off the third runway, they've actually occupied a site which would have been the sixth terminal for the expanded Heathrow Airport," he said.

"They've helped us not just in that campaign, but they've become part of the community and they've turned what was a derelict site into a real community asset and they're at the heart of our community."

Tracey Howard, a Sipson resident, said: "Today could have been a taste of the hundreds of evictions that would take place should a third runway be granted.

"We the local residents and campaigners were using this as an opportunity to practise ways of peacefully resisting bailiffs and the bulldozers that may come for our homes."

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