Protest at flood talks

ECO protesters at Doncaster's Robin Hood airport disrupted a flood summit meeting attended by two Government ministers.

Monday, 3rd September 2007, 1:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2007, 11:56 am

The action came as ministers warned the summer's disaster will inevitably mean job losses across the region, after meeting business leaders from across Yorkshire and the Humber.

Government business and enterprise secretary John Hutton and minister for competitiveness Stephen Timms had been hearing how businesses were affected by the floods when the climate change protesters tried to get into Directions Finningley's converted aircraft hangar where the summit was being held.

Police arrested two men and a woman on suspicion of public order offences. The woman was later released without charge. The two men were bailed last night but have not been charged with anything at this stage.

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The protesters - members of the Campaign for Climate Action - arrived as the meeting was closing and police were called to clear them from the building. It is the same organisation that has established a protest camp at Heathrow to fight the development of a proposed new runway.

Group spokeswoman Christine Hooley said: "We're here because Yorkshire Forward are hosting the summit and it appears that though the summit is about learning the lessons of the flood, they refuse to address the real issue - and that's the link between the floods and climate change.

"Global warming is caused by human CO2 emissions and we're here to make that point. It's ironic that the summit is being held at Finningley as the airport is part of the Government's plans to increase air use, and that is the fastest growing source of pollution in the UK."

Despite the disruption caused by the protesters, the event was hailed a success.

Doncaster's mayor Martin Winter said: "It was very useful for various organisations to come together to see what lessons were learnt from the floods.

"The whole of Doncaster was significantly affected by the floods and we need to make sure that the individual businesses get the support they need. We want to be able to provide a bespoke service to get them the help they need within the framework that has been laid down."

Minister John Hutton warned jobs would be lost due to the effects of the floods but said Government steps to help businesses affected should prevent too many going out of business

He said: "We are giving companies help with their VAT and PAYE payments - we won't be penalising any businesses that make late payments due to the floods and we won't be charging interest."

But he added: "We won't be able to prevent businesses going under and some businesses will due to the floods - that's the reality of the situation."

Tom Riordan of Yorkshire Forward said: "So far it's very difficult to gauge the effect the floods have had. We know of 40 businesses with six months of trading behind them that have had to close. That's out of around 3,600 affected. Though the floods did have an effect on growth we still expect the area to hit the 2.2 per cent growth target we had predicted."