THE iconic battleground on which the struggle for the future of our planet will be fought is at Heathrow airport. The Government's consultation on whether to allow Heathrow to virtually double in size by constructing a third runway and sixth terminal ended on February 27.

A decision by Gordon Brown on whether to encourage the British Airports Authority to submit a planning application for Heathrow expansion is expected before Parliament rises for its summer recess or no later than the autumn.

What is at stake initially is the threat to forcibly move from their homes and communities up to about 10,000 of our people who live in the communities on, or close to, the site of the proposed runway and terminal. This would constitute the largest forced movement of people in this country since the Scottish clearances of three centuries ago.

The plan includes the demolition or rendering unusable of three primary schools, doctors' surgeries, a hospice, community centres and churches. Only last month it was revealed that the new road network associated with the expanded airport would be driven through the local cemetery.

These communities were promised by BAA at the fifth terminal inquiry that if a fifth terminal was permitted there would be no further expansion of the airport. After every inquiry successive governments have given the same promise and broken it each time. At every expansion they have also been promised more jobs and yet every time job cuts and deskilling has occurred through mechanisation and ruthless, exploitative rationalisations. This time round exhortation over jobs has turned into threats over pensions. Both BAA, recently sold to the Spanish conglomerate Ferruvial, and BA are even trying to blackmail people that the viability of their workers' pension funds will be under threat if they don't get their way over airport expansion.

The battle over Heathrow expansion is displaying raw capitalism at its most ruthless and brutal. The human rights of whole communities are being ridden roughshod over in the drive for short-term profit taking by the aviation industry. But the long-term consequences for our planet are even more devastating. Aviation is rapidly becoming one of the greatest polluters of our environment and therefore a major contributor to climate change. Many now argue that we are near to or at the tipping point on climate change; the point at which the degeneration of our environment and the earth's atmosphere becomes irreversible.

There is an alternative. It is based upon developing a sustainable, integrated transport system, in particular investing in rail expansion, enabling the effective planning of this system by bringing rail back into public ownership, and establishing integrated, not-for-profit community transport networks. To be effective, this alternative transport programme would need to be an integral part of a much wider environmental programme encompassing alternative energy supply, land use planning, food production and distribution and international co-operation.

The battle over Heathrow will take place in many forms. Last summer's Climate Camp and the Parliament rooftop protest have demonstrated how direct action can raise the profile and understanding of an issue. Public meetings across London and the South East during the consultation period have seen attendances of between on average 300 to a thousand people. With such a groundswell of opposition I believe that we can win the historic battle of Heathrow.