Comedian Mark Thomas and the novelist Will Self are among celebrities opposed to a planned 400-metre extension of Birmingham International Airport’s main runway.
The pair joined 1,000 protesters to sign a petition urging Solihull Council to throw out the £120 million scheme on environmental grounds.
Campaigners dressed as pilots delivered the petition, in the form of postcards, to Solihull Borough Council on top of a duty-free shopping trolley.
Dubbed Flyagra by the protesters – “the miracle treatment that really keeps you up” – the petition was accepted by two Liberal Democrat councillors. Borough planners will decide on December 15 whether to approve the extended runway, which is being backed by the political leadership of all seven West Midlands metropolitan councils, including Solihull, and could be in place by 2012.
Local authority leaders say a longer runway, which will allow flights to operate non-stop for the first time from Birmingham to India, China and the west coast of America, is desperately needed to boost the regional economy, attracting inward investment and creating thousands of new jobs.
But anti-airport noise group Birmingham Airport Anti Noise Group (BANG) and Friends of the Earth insist the extension will make the airport busier than ever and is out of step with Government pressure on councils and businesses to tackle climate change by cutting CO2 emissions by 80 per cent.
James Botham, secretary of BANG, said: “A decision to approve the runway extension would usher in a damaging new era of aggressive expansion at Birmingham International Airport.”
Joe Peacock, from Birmingham Friends of the Earth, said: “We know from the studies by independent consultants that aircraft noise and carbon dioxide emissions will grow if BIA is allowed to extend its runway.”
He said the airport management’s argument that the scheme would benefit the environment was flawed since the emissions saved from fewer car journeys would be dwarfed by the extra emissions generated by longer flights.
A BIA spokesman said: “Forecasts show that BIA will handle 27 million passengers a year by 2030 and an extension would account for four million of these. But these four million would be very important, bringing wealth and prosperity to the region through overseas investment and supporting regional business, commerce, industry and tourism.”