Questions answered about Heathrow questionnaire
Many residents under threat from a third runway had barely got into the New Year before they were made to feel under pressure from Heathrow to reveal personal information apparently as part of preparation for a survey needed in the airport's planning application - even though no decision has been made about whether the north-west runway will ever be built.
On the 4th and 5th of January, a large white envelope dropped on the door mats of some of the households that are either in the initial demolition zone for the proposed third runway or very close to it. Inside was a letter, a 5-page questionnaire and a document showing a map with the occupant's home and it's legal boundary, as depicted in official Land Registry records. In addition to the paperwork, there was a reply-paid envelope to encourage a rapid response.
While some may have been tempted by the apparent offer of £200 if the completed forms were returned within 6 weeks (not guaranteed), others worried that they might be under a legal obligation to give all the information even if the runway is just a glint in John Holland-Kaye's eye. (They are not).
There are telephone numbers in the packs but residents have learned not to trust Heathrow. While SHE looked into the surveys, quite a few residents started to receive more questionnaires. Some were addressed to residents by name while others were just to the occupier. A frail 86-year-old widow received four large envelopes including one for her husband, who died in 2006, and another in joint names. When she did not return the forms someone knocked on her door and left a "sorry we missed you" card with a leaflet. She later saw a 6-strong team of people knocking on every door to ask why people had not returned the form as requested.
We then heard that residents felt harassed and a even a charity in Harlington received a form, although its unpaid volunteers were not offered any payments for completing the form. Curiously, the charity also has very little land that could be used by wildlife. As a result of residents' concerns, SHE has now produced a leaflet of questions and answers, which are shown below. Paper copies will be delivered to households in the initial demolition zone of Harmondsworth and Longford.
Why does Heathrow want a land referencing and wildlife survey? Heathrow does NOT have permission to build a third runway. The Government has announced that a north-west runway is its preferred option for airport expansion in the South East of England and there is a long process before we know if this development will ever be built. Despite this, Heathrow says it wants to gather the information it would need for a planning application in the future.
Why does Heathrow want my personal information and must I give it? When Heathrow eventually begins accessing the impact of their plans on wildlife, it will need permission from the land owner AND those who occupy it. This gives Heathrow an opportunity to ask for details and for you to sign a written declaration. If you do not wish to take part, you can ignore the correspondence completely.
Will I get money for taking part? Will I be in trouble if I don’t? Residents will not get any money for just filling out the form – despite mention of £200 for completing within 6 weeks. You will have given all your details for nothing. Only those who are selected for the survey will receive payment. There are individual payments of £150 for each visit if they occur. You will not be in trouble if you ignore the correspondence. If in future Heathrow feels your land is vital to their survey, it will have to make a strong case.
Could giving my information cause problems for me? Heathrow is a foreign-owned private company that has announced its intention to destroy land and buildings in our area if it ever gets the go-ahead for a third runway. Information you provide could result in unintended consequences for you. For example, despite talk of compensation, there is no legally-binding scheme in place relating to these proposals. Some homes are likely to be excluded from a scheme and your answers, with the signed declaration, may exclude your property in future.
Why am I being bombarded with material from Heathrow? Some residents have been sent four questionnaires plus “sorry we missed you” notes and personal callers chasing a response. Heathrow has employed another company, Mouchel, to deal with the survey. Numbers for both companies are printed on the material and it may be possible to halt the bombardment.
Must I give Heathrow or Mouchel my details in order to express my views in the forthcoming consultation on the third runway proposals? Despite this suggestion in the letter, you DO NOT need to give them your details. A Government consultation will be announced soon, with media coverage and information online. There will also be local events where you can view displays and discuss your issues or worries.