Stanwell Moor residents air grievances
The residents of Stanwell Moor, who recently lost their residents' association, got the chance to air their grievances about living near Heathrow at a special Listening Event in the village on Tuesday 20th March.
Heathrow sent the invitations to residents and there is little doubt that anger over the proposed expansion and the dramatic demise of the Stanwell Moor Residents' Association (SMRA) were factors in bringing so many people to the rather low-key event.
Residents could also have been galvanised by the front page headline of the 10th March edition of the local free newspaper, The Heathrow Villager, which declared: "Heathrow Denying Compensation to Stanwell Village". Inside the same edition was a resignation statement from the long-standing Chair of the SMRA, Kathleen Croft. She stated that on 6th March the committee and officers had resigned due to one resident starting a movement called "Sell To Heathrow". Mrs Croft said that people had been persuaded to join the group with the expectation that they would receive a cash bonus of "at least £75,000" per house if they sold to Heathrow, based on the assumption that the airport would buy their properties at 25% above the valuation.
It should be noted that Stanwell Moor village is neither in the zone for compulsory purchase nor the wider area identified by Heathrow as being severely impacted. In addition, Heathrow has already made a "public commitment" (if you trust Heathrow promises) to buy 3,750 unliveable homes and it is doubtful that they could find funding to buy even these."Sell To Heathrow" is hoping that residents will pay £20 each to gain information about its campaign to put pressure on the airport to find the funds to buy properties in their area.
Prior to the Listening Event on Tuesday, 20th, Heathrow held two Consultation Briefings at the same venue in early February. Some audience members at the second of those briefings expressed their anger that SMRA was not doing enough for residents, especially on the compensation issue. Rather than get involved in a "feud", as Kathleen Croft puts it, everyone on the committee resigned. The SMRA website still exists but states it is closed.
Ironically, Kathleen Croft refers in her letter to hostile comments that "SMRA had done nothing with regard to Heathrow and that SMRA received monies from them." While the now closed website asks for more sponsors and displays an advert saying "Heathrow - Making every journey better".
Some may delight in an opportunity to tap into local dissatisfaction and avoid intervention from an established residents' association, however the demise of SMRA has currently left residents without a well-respected voice in a range of forums. Kathleen Croft has usually been Stanwell Moor's sole representative at meetings in the wider community. She was also twice chosen to represent organisations that attend Heathrow's Local Focus Forum on the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee. Inevitably, the concerned inhabitants of Stanwell Moor need a listening ear and Heathrow has stepped forward to offer that.
Attendees arrived between 6.30pm and 8.30pm and were able to casually chat to members of Heathrow's Community Liaison Team, including the infamous Rob Gray who made his name running Back Heathrow, advocating the quick destruction of the Heathrow Villages so that a runway could be built and appease his buddies who want minimum-wage jobs for their children and grandchildren. Odd that he should now be put forward to residents as a listening ear who will offer tea and sympathy - and biscuits too in this case.
On arrival residents were given coloured sticky dots, which they placed on maps and charts to inform the airport how long they have lived in the village, their gender and marital status, as well as the gender of household members and the number of people in their home.
Post-It notes, much-loved at such events, made an appearance. Residents were asked to write down on the papers how they thought Heathrow could improve their area and then stick them onto a wall. Frankly it appeared to be designed to give disgruntled people the chance to get something off their chests in the most passive way possible rather than sounding off in the press or at public meetings.
HAL's Community Liaison Team milled around talking to people. Back Heathrow supporter and multiple property owner Marion Rough was present. She used to be a Spelthorne councillor but now sits on the Heathrow's Local Focus Forum even though her claim to speak on behalf of a Stanwell community group has been questioned. She was very disparaging about Stanwell Moor and said it used to be a nice village - in the 1970s! (So Marion, you agree that allowing Heathrow to repeatedly expand over the past 45 years has damaged Stanwell Moor? Surely that's a good reason not to let it expand any further.) Two men from Sell To Heathrow spent considerable time talking to HAL staff.
It was noted that Cllr Robert Evans of Surrey County Council popped in briefly while SHE committee member Armelle Thomas was one of the first to arrive, along with Kathleen Croft, and was so keen to hear what residents had to say that she stayed to the end.
Having looked at the wall of Post-It notes she saw some key themes: Fed up with noise and pollution; lorries; no public transport; litter; incinerator; traffic; cab and taxis; parking; late flights; flooding.
Quite a few residents want to be in the CPO zone but many more were keen to preserve their village. The latter realise that the feeling of belonging to a village community is hard to find and should not be discarded lightly. If the foreign owners of Heathrow want to buy some cheap land not far from London, what better way than to buy from residents who have been beaten into submission by repeated calls for expansion. Sell To Heathrow looks like their ally.
Armelle asked one HAL staff member where Heathrow was proposing to put the thousands of people displaced. Remember, not everyone is a homeowner and not everyone would have the funds to buy an appropriate home near their work or children's schools. The response was that Heathrow is talking to the councils about housing.
They may be talking but not a single local authority has plans that include homes, let alone houses, for the people left homeless by a third runway. If each council in the vicinity is forced to build 5,000 solely for those displaced, as has been suggested, this would have huge implications for people currently living in those areas.
The people who should be listening to residents fearing the loss of their homes are members of the public (and politicians) who think a runway is a good idea. If a third runway is built, the domino effect on housing will have disastrous ramifications for boroughs that have previous considered themselves unaffected.
Stop Press - Colnbrook and Poyle have the next Listening Session on Wednesday 28th March at the T5 Hilton at 6.30pm-8.30pm. Other planned events are listed below:
Harmondsworth – 16th April
Iver – 17th April
Cranford – 18th April
Stanwell – 19th April
Heston (tbc) – 23rd April
Hatton – 25th April
Sipson – 26th April
Bedfont & Feltham – 30th April
Longford – 1st May
Brands Hill – 2nd May
Harlington – 3rd May