Heathrow fails to answer questions on residents' personal data
In the next couple of weeks Heathrow will be sending out questionnaires to properties in the Wider Property Offer Zone (WPOZ) yet its staff in community engagement for the proposed expansion can’t tell residents what data will be put in the public domain for all to see.
On 30th October, representatives from communities bordering Heathrow attended the airport’s Local Focus Forum meeting. These meetings are intended to cover Heathrow operations but have been increasingly dominated by issues around its proposed third runway development, even though this is not a done deal and must continue through the planning process including hurdles such as legal challenges.
Former Back Heathrow Director Rob Gray chairs the meetings in his current role as Heathrow’s Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement. It’s interesting how Heathrow has turned Community Engagement into a lucrative profession for some people. Heathrow has pumped vast sums of money into both Back Heathrow and its apparently ever-growing band of pro-expansion “experts”. We hear that the current count for staff shuffling paper on this project is about 250 - the only area of job creation in the whole airport!!
Andy Lawson, who introduced himself as “Residential Property in the Expansion team”, came to the front of the room to tell attendees that Heathrow is obliged to send out questionnaires as part of the Development Consent Order (DCO) planning process. He explained that these questionnaires are “pre-populated with information our supplier has gleaned from public records”.
What that means is that some of the questionnaires have some areas already filled in because the outside company they have hired to do the job (with yet more staff and at vast expense) has trawled records, their own and other sources like the Land Registry, to find our all they can about you and your property.
One resident at the meeting who lives in the CPO area said she had received three questionnaires, including one that included information on her neighbour’s property. This residents had queried this with Heathrow almost immediately, two weeks prior to this meeting, but had yet to receive a reply.
That’s a poor show when Heathrow is spending so much money on community engagement and publicity for its third runway project that it wouldn’t tell the Transport Select Committee of MPs exactly how much. (CEO John Holland Kaye would only mention a figure of £30 million for runway promotion but his advisor, sitting next to him, wouldn’t reveal the size of the additional money being used for “community engagement”, which includes its campaign group Back Heathrow plus infiltration into schools and universities.)
The airport is saying that it needs the Land Referencing information for the DCO process but this doesn’t make sense. It is premature to be asking for this information now - it may never get to the DCO stage. Even if it did, the information is likely to be out of date by then and Heathrow admits that it already knows it will have to send out yet more letters and questionnaires after this current round.
Heathrow is spending a fortune on Land Referencing because it wants to gather as much information as possible on all the land and property around its boundary. Whether it gets a runway or not, a land grab would give its investors a good return while removing long-standing owners who might protest about future development. It can also reveal potentially difficult properties due to access rights and the like.
Heathrow also says it wants the information so that it can inform residents of the consultation in January 2019. When HAL’s Andy Lawson was asked whether information on the statutory consultation would not be sent to residents who had not completed the questionnaire, he did not respond. Meanwhile, Rob Gray forcefully questioned HASRA representatives about their advice to residents, suggesting that they were telling them to bin the questionnaires.
For the record, HASRA has not told residents to bin the questions. It is up to residents what they want to do with the forms. Both SHE and HASRA are concerned about the stress resulting from repeated letters putting unnecessary pressure to complete long and detailed documents.
Neither Rob Gray nor Andy Lawson were able to tell residents’ representatives how much of the information in the questionnaire would be made public. Rob Gray stated that only names and addresses would be released. However, one of the residents’ representatives (Christine Taylor from HASRA) had rung the WSP helpline and it was indicated that only email addresses and telephone numbers would be withheld from the Book of Reference, which must be published as part of the DCO process.
Information on the questionnaire’s will also be shared with “trusted third parties” but neither Rob Gray, Andy Lawson nor the Q&A sheet could say who these are.
Residents’ information appears to be in The Book of Reference for anyone to see forever. If you want further information about Heathrow’s use of your personal data and your rights, you can go online. That assumes that you have access to that information and would be able to understand it.
People are being contacted by letter yet Heathrow assumes that everyone has the internet in their home or that they have a phone that has this function.
None of the five Heathrow villages - two of which face full or partial destruction and are in the CPO area - have a library. The mobile library that visits some areas has no computers. There are no community buildings in the villages that provide this facility for the general public.
It is not surprising that residents are angered by the Land Referencing surveys. As a result of enquiries from Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents’ Association (HASRA), the independent Heathrow Community Engagement Board (HCEB), which aims to hold Heathrow to account, has written to Heathrow to obtain answers to the above questions.
Meanwhile, Heathrow and HASRA are due to meet to discuss the concerns.