International activism can stop airport expansions

This opposition was underpinned by North Somerset council’s “historic” decision to reject the application in February 2020 by a large majority.  But on appeal, three government planning inspectors decided all that opposition means nothing. 

How can this be? The basis for their decision – that economic benefits outweigh environmental damage – is demonstrably untrue. And I’m furious. 

But I won’t be sitting back. The concerns of local people have to mean something, and this new setback sees citizen groups preparing on all fronts.

BAAN have crowdfunded the legal costs to dispute the Planning Inspectorate’s decision, and now an international effort is taking on the investors at the heart of it all. 


To understand this last strategy, we must understand that the airport company is a puppet answering directly to the OTPP.

OTPP, which campaigners have accused of being a “corporate psychopath”, is the 100 percent owner of Bristol Airport and sole beneficiary of its expansion. While Bristol Airport made hundreds of redundancies in 2020, the Pension Plan registered record profits in 2021.

OTPP has stakes in Bristol, Birmingham, London City, Brussels, and Copenhagen airports, making it the largest private investor in European airports.

Most of these airports have disputed expansion plans. It may claim to be a “responsible” investor but it’s clear that its actions are not in the interests of local communities, nor Ontario’s teachers.

This case demonstrates the disconnect which enables the global economy to sustain short-term profits through exploitation. Like the UK, Ontario has seen many climate protests in recent years, and Ontario teachers are worried about how their pensions will impact their students’ futures.


And yet, OTPP’s goal of endless double-digit growth is driving forward airport expansion plans across Europe, which local people have fiercely opposed.

Therein lies an opportunity. When an investor pulled out of Heathrow, its expansion plans were thrown into uncertainty. I thought: what if OTPP publicly withdrew its support of airport expansions? Disruption like that can throw a project off for good.

While this thinking isn’t particularly new, what is new is the collaboration between groups resisting OTPP-owned airports: a united international front for co-ordinated actions and communications.

We are building a global coalition of activists striving for a better world. From anti-expansion group CPH Uden Udvidelse and Bevar Jordforbindelsen in Copenhagen to HACAN East in London, we are building a global coalition of activists striving for a better world.

We are demonstrating the interconnected, extractive features of capital – connecting geographically distant communities to acknowledge common enemies and support each other’s struggles. My head buzzes with the potential.

This international collaboration is just taking off. We’ve got interested parties, a strong case, and the seeds of a compelling strategy.

With the court case ongoing, we can’t know which mechanism will ultimately be successful. All we know is that the resistance won’t let up until Bristol Airport’s expansion is put to bed once and for all. Will you be a part of it?

This Author

Tanguy Tomes is an intersectional environmentalist campaigning to change things with urgency and justice. This article first appeared at the Bristol Cable


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