700 homes to be destroyed in Heathrow expansion plans

Seven hundred homes close to Heathrow Airport would have to be destroyed to make way for a planned third runway and sixth terminal, local residents heard this week.

The news was included in BAA Heathrow’s draft interim master plan which was published this week for consultation.

This confirmed the proposals contained in the Aviation White Paper (see related story) to transform and expand the airport to satisfy increasing passenger demand.

Aside from the £4.2 billion BAA has earmarked for Terminal 5, the plan sets out how the airport company aims to invest a further £3 billion over the next ten years to rejuvenate and develop the rest of the airport.

Mick Temple, Managing Director of BAA Heathrow, said that Terminal 5 would allow Heathrow the opportunity to modernise and transform itself.

“The aviation industry is constantly changing to reflect the evolving needs of air passengers, and as an airport operator we also have to respond to meet these needs,” he said. “We are proud of the fact that Heathrow offers enormous benefits to the local and national economies but are also keenly aware that our operations have a significant impact on our surrounding communities. The challenge for us is to secure the continued growth and benefits of Heathrow in a way which is both socially and environmentally responsible.”

However, local groups contest any social or environmental responsibility in the expansion plans.

HACAN ClearSkies, a local pressure group campaigning against the expansion, says that while the plan admits that 700 homes would have to be demolished, it makes no mention of the thousands of people who would be affected by living under the extra flight path of the proposed third runway.

In the Aviation White paper, the government admitted that around 150,000 people would be affected under the new path, experiencing annoying levels of aircraft noise (in excess of 54 decibels averaged out through the day) in places such as Slough, Maidenhead, Heston, North Chiswick and parts of Kensington and Chelsea.

In addition, having such development hanging overhead would mean people are unlikely to want to buy a house in the area and allow residents to move out. The longer the consultation takes the lower the house prices will be forced.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN Clear Shies, said that, due to the delay between consultation and decision, people in the affected areas faced years of uncertainty over their housing future.

“Because a third runway is at least ten years away, all these people will face a decade of blight. Hardest hit, of course, will be the communities of Sipson, Harmondsworth and Harlington, which will be virtually wiped out if expansion takes place,” he said.

“There is nothing new in today’s announcement from BAA. All these proposals were in the White Paper. But, they do confirm the way that both the government and the aviation industry are prepared to play with people’s lives in order to get what they want.”

The plans still need to go through the public consultation and Public Enquiry process before permission can be granted for a third runway or sixth terminal. The government has recommended that these plans be delayed until at least 2015 because of concern they will exceed legal limits on air pollution.

However, modernisation of Heathrow is already underway with a new extension to Terminal 1 which opened in May, and the £100 million redevelopment of Terminal 3’s Pier 6 to accommodate the A380.

Last week the Tyndall Centre warned that emissions from aviation were growing so fast that they would negate any progress made in emissions reduction for all other sectors of the economy combined (see related story).

Heathrow is not the only airport marked for expansion. The aviation White Paper gave expansion permission to over 20 others including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

By David Hopkins

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