Letters target residents under threat
As if living under threat of having your home destroyed for a third runway isn't bad enough, you are also subjected to correspondence being pushed through your letterbox that suggests the bulldozers are poised to crush your property.
Last weekend, the latest unsolicited letters to land on villagers' doormats were marked with a red statement saying: "IMPORTANT - HEATHROW COMPULSORY PURCHASE - To the property owner".
Inside the envelope was a letter "To the Homeowner", which, under the heading "Heathrow Expansion" started: "As you may be aware, your property is within the area identified for the proposed Heathrow expansion plans which are likely to be subject to a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in the near future."
For a start, the government has NOT given the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow. Far from looking likely that houses with be compulsory purchased, it is looking likely that a third runway is undeliverable, (The Tories are talking about borrowing money to build homes to ease the housing crisis so they will struggle to justify borrowing the £17bn needed for third runway transport infrastructure. Meanwhile, Labour is looking at the four tests that it says would have to be satisfied before the party could support a third runway. There seems little or no prospect of those tests being passed.)
Having deliberately made the recipient of the letter fearful that they will be forced to sell their property and move out "in the near future", you would have thought that the sender would have sent the letter ONLY to properties in the CPO zone designated by Heathrow. In fact, people OUTSIDE that CPO zone got the letter too. It beggars belief that anyone would so casually inform people that their home has been earmarked for imminent destruction without having done some rudimental research.
Many residents were soon up in arms at receiving the letter and worried about vulnerable residents who might mistake this marketing junk mail for something more official that required a response. Telephone numbers and an email address were on the letter and when SHE was informed of the letter we contacted the sender - Robert Clifford, Director of Aitchison Rafferty.
For some reason, the contents of the letter don't state that Aitchison Rafferty is a firm of Chartered Surveyors and Town Planners, you have to work that out from logos and small print at the bottom or go to their website. The company's letter head refers to them as Property Consultants. So what are the services they are offering and what are they getting out of it?
Now if you want to seek advice from a company that doesn't even check whether you are in the CPO area or not before sending you a letter stating that you are (and someone has already contacted to us to say this is reason enough to avoid the company), that is entirely up to you.
Firms like Aitchison Rafferty know that they can earn money from the Compulsory Purchase Order Process. They hope that residents will sign up with them because the fees that companies receive for CPO advice will come from Heathrow rather than the homeowner. That way this company, like others, can say "our services are effectively free of charge".
If you sign up with them they will contact Heathrow and say they are acting on your behalf. They will look at a valuation of your property and will act for you in any negotiations. Their claim is that they can get you the best price for your home. If you are thinking of selling, you may wish to engage the services of a surveyor or solicitor to look into the options in your case.
Beware of ambulance chasers. Do some research and check that they have experience of dealing with individuals who have been threatened with a CPO. Find out what they have achieved for others. If you are not planning to sell, do you want to go down this route? Look for websites that offer advice and not simply those that are basically looking to make money for themselves or their associates.
Our villages do not have a library so it is almost impossible for many people, especially the elderly, to access the internet or research materials. We generally have to rely on our communities to spread the word.
Do not be panicked by these letters, which are clearly designed to push you in one direction - towards their company. They are marketing letters.
WE ARE FIGHTING AGAINST HEATHROW EXPANSION AND EXPECT TO WIN AGAIN - JOIN US!
We now hear that huge numbers of people in the CPO area have not received the marketing letter while, as we mentioned, others outside the CPO area got the letters that say they are inside. Without doubt, Aitchison Rafferty has not looked into our situation at the sharp end of Heathrow expansion. These letters, whether they are acted upon or not, put further uncertainty into the minds of people who are already having their life decisions affected.
The scattergun approach of such mail shots is no way to help our villagers.