Greenpeace has bought a field in the middle of the proposed Heathrow third runway in order to block the scheme. When the group told me about it yesterday it seemed like a bit of a gimmick – not least because the owners will include Emma Thompson, Alastair McGowan and Zac Goldsmith.
It has long been clear that the government will have to CPO (compulsory purchase order) huge tracts of land around the airport. That includes 700 homes.
What difference would a field make?
Actually, it could slow the process down as Greenpeace wants to divide into hundreds or thousands of plots which would be owned by various people around the world – eg Innuits living near the Polar ice cap.
I just called up a planning expert at one of the big property agencies to ask whether this would work. It turns out that a government agency wanting to carry out a CPO has to physically serve it in person to the landowner. That could make things very, very complicated.
The example he gave was Ken Bates, who as chairman of Chelsea Football Club had the pitch divided up into tiny segments and sold off (to Chelsea Pitch Owners) to prevent it ever turned into anything else.
The fact that Heathrow was discussed formally at cabinet this morning is the biggest clue so far that the announcement will happen – as predicted here – later this week.
However, all No 10 will say on it is that it will come “this month”.
Greenpeace says that thousands of people have come forward to buy stakes in the field.