Proposed sites for runway development shock residents
Two public meetings held in the Heathrow villages this week raised concerns about the number and location of sites that, according to Heathrow, could be destroyed to create a third runway development. Until now, many residents in surrounding areas have not realised just how damaging another runway would be to their lives.
The brave souls who attended the meetings, despite heavy snow and bitter winds, had the opportunity to put questions to campaigners and politicians.
St Mary’s Church Hall in Harmondsworth was the venue for the first meeting, on Wednesday 28th February. With the snow swirling through the village, attendance could have been affected but, in fact, the hall was full and constituency MP, John McDonnell, also managed to attended.
The billed guest speaker was Hillingdon Council Leader Ray Puddifoot, who is a passionate opponent of Heathrow expansion. He has ensured that campaigners battling to protect the health and homes of people in the south of the borough have received the support to continue. Last month he announced that Hillingdon Council, which under Mr Puddifoot has already defeated the government in court over the issue, has budgeted £200,000 for the fund to launch a legal challenge against the runway.
The Council Leader started the meeting by listing all the things that were wrong with the current Heathrow consultation. Like most long-standing residents of the borough, Mr Puddifoot is well aware that the airport cannot be trusted to tell the truth so public meetings organised by anti-expansion campaigners are important.
At the second meeting in Yiewsley and West Drayton Community Centre, on an even colder night on Friday 2nd March, Justine Bayley of SHE gave a presentation showing local maps from the consultation documents. These showed the huge number of development sites that Heathrow have their eye on.
Ms Bayley, an expert on building conservation and heritage, shocked the audience with shots of the individual parcels of land and their possible intended purpose, as listed in the consultation material. Despite the horror of the revelations, there is no doubt that most residents who will NOT be forced to leave their homes have no idea that they will have to suffer SEVERE negative impacts from a third runway.
One audience member asked how anyone knowing the facts could support it. John McDonnell MP responded that it was all our jobs to ensure that the information is spread as widely as possible.
Rob Barnstone, from SHE and the NoR3 Coalition, told those in the hall that Justine Greening MP had held a meeting on 1st March in Putney, with fellow anti-runway campaigner Zac Goldsmith MP. Justine informed the meeting that she had written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to demand that MPs have full flight path information BEFORE they vote on a third runway, not afterwards as is currently the way the planning timetable has been scheduled, so they know what communities will be affected.
Allowing MPs to vote on a massively destructive and costly project without essential information is just one of the ways that the new planning process, aimed at speeding things up after the lengthy T5 enquiry, is deeply flawed.
Topics raised at the meetings included:
Longford – Stan Wood, who is a leading member of the newly-reformed Longford Residents’ Association, wanted the village to have a higher profile as it is the village that would be totally wiped off the map by the runway proposals. Christine Taylor of SHE showed a Heathrow consultation leaflet showing local impacts – sadly this is one time when Longford takes top billing in the title. These are available from the consultation events, with the Harmondsworth event scheduled for 9th March.
Land grabbing by Heathrow – Various maps at the consultation events and in the documents show specific areas that the airport are likely to use for development. One such area, which is a tiny orange dot on a map in the leaflet showing the local impacts, is the location of The Lodge in Harmondsworth. This building, which local people were looking at as a possible venue to accommodate community services, has been bought by the government for a school even though it accepts that the site is unsuitable. It seems likely that this property and its land would be sold to Heathrow and this may have been the intention from the start.
Housing – Huge destruction, particularly of family homes. These usually include gardens, thus increasing the land take in the south of the borough where new properties have a much smaller footprint. West Drayton and Hayes now have numerous blocks of tiny residential units. Jane Taylor, the Chair of Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents’ Association (HASRA), pointed out that the compensation package is poor and will not provide residents like herself to buy a similar property within reach of family, friends and support networks. Workers could lose their jobs when forced to move away.
Sipson – This village is not in the area for compulsory purchase so there were questions about how it would be affected. Clearly the impact would be significant as some houses would be directly under the departing and landing aircraft. Changes to the roads would also have a severe impact and together these would make most homes unliveable should a third runway go ahead.
Heathrow has been buying homes in the village and is the dominant landlord in the villages. This has enabled it to set the rents for the area at the highest level possible – in the airport’s view this is the “market rent”. Jane has pointed out to the airport that they initially reassured residents that the family homes they purchased would have families occupying them as tenants, as a priority.
However, rents are now too high for families – with other landlords raising rents to Heathrow levels too. Heathrow is therefore changing the demographics of Sipson, with houses being occupied by groups of single men. Jane suggested that Heathrow lead the way in the way it deals with housing and set an example like large companies did in previous eras.
Heathrow funding third runway propaganda in schools – A parent raised concerns that her daughter received lessons funded by the airport. The child, who was at the meeting, briefly described what appeared to be a lesson on the importance of airport freight. Cllr Puddifoot commented that headteachers at schools now have more powers to set what happens in their schools. Christine Taylor from SHE, who has been a school governor, agreed that headteachers and governors would be the people to whom parents could address complaints.
Ms Taylor was particularly concerned that Back Heathrow, a lobby group with the sole function of promoting the expansion of a polluting industry that damages health, was being given the opportunity to address children in schools and colleges. She had wondered if a school would allow a tobacco industry lobby group to promote its product and as a result rang a school that had hosted a Back Heathrow lesson. On asking if there was any vetting of groups allowed to promote themselves in schools, she was advised that any group could make an application.
Kicking the runway decision into the long grass – John McDonnell MP said that it was possible the MPs’ vote could be delayed because a third runway is such a contentious issue. Harmondsworth resident Armelle Thomas spoke for many people when she said that people living under threat wanted the runway cancelled as soon as possible and not dragged on for more years.