It’s ‘Like being on death row’: residents facing devastating impact of Heathrow runway plans
Residents of a historic village that could be obliterated under today’s proposals to expand Heathrow said the plans would have a “devastating” impact on their lives. Some 1,500 buildings would be lost in Harmondsworth and neighbouring Longworth by a north west Heathrow runway – one of the options short-listed by the Airports Commission. People fear the prospect of being as little compensation as the airport can get away with. Residents and business owners in Harmondsworth urged the Government to speed up their decision-making – comparing the impact to “being on death row”. Parts of Harmondsworth are over 1,000 years old and the village contains the Tithe Barn and St Mary’s Church, both places of heritage value. The vicar of St Mary’s Church said: “We lost one-third of our congregation due to the uncertainty over the runway. We used to have 45 on a regular Sunday; it’s come down to 25 or 30, half of whom come from outside the village.” Geraldine Nicholson, who lives in West Drayton just 100m away from one of the proposed runways, said it is not just the villages that would be affected, and 10,000 homes north of the M4 would suffer too – there would be very negative social, as well as environmental, impacts.
‘Like being on death row’: residents near Heathrow blast plans for new runway
17 December 2013 (Standard)
Residents of a historic village that could be obliterated under today’s proposals to expand Heathrow said the plans would have a “devastating” impact on their lives.
Residents and business owners in Harmondsworth, which is home to Tithe Barn and St Mary’s Church, both places of heritage value, urged the Government to speed up their decision-making – comparing the impact to “being on death row”.
Some 1,500 buildings would be lost in Harmondsworth and neighbouring Longworth by a north west runway, one of the shortlisted options revealed today.
Adam Lovejoy, 50, whose irrigation business in the 200-year-old The Old Forge faces being flattened, said the new proposal goes “completely against the original plan”.
He said: “Disruption to our business would mean that we would have to find a new premises. Then we’d go back to the age-old British way of mess them around for ages then pay as little compensation as possible. It would be devastating to the village which has been her for 1,000 years plus.
“We’ve just spent an awful lot of money renovating this building to the strict rules and regulations of Hillingdon. It’s a kick in the teeth if after doing it they then knock it down for a runway.”
He urged the Government to make their decision as quickly as possible so that people can move on with their lives, adding: “If they’re going to do it, put people out of your misery, it’s like being on death row for 20 years. Make the decision.”
The Venerable Amatu Onundu Christian-Iwuagwu, vicar of St Mary’s Church, has said: “We lost one-third of our congregation due to the uncertainty over the runway. We used to have 45 on a regular Sunday; it’s come down to 25 or 30, half of whom come from outside the village.”
Geraldine Nicholson, 44, who lives in West Drayton just 100m away from one of the proposed runways at Heathrow, said it is not just the villages that would be affected, claiming that 10,000 homes north of the M4 would suffer too.
The mother-of-three, who works at a nearby school, said she fears the “social impact” that a new runway would have on the area.
She said: “The impact will be aircraft noise, we don’t have it at the moment, the noise will be unbearable and the air pollution, we’ll also have schools being closed. It’s not just losing your house, it’s the social impact…I don’t want to move, I’ve lived in my house for 20 years and I’ve lived in this area my whole life. IT’s not about selling houses, that’s not what people want to do.”
She also said she fears the impact on infrastructure, saying roads would be “gridlocked”.
Kathleen Croft, 70, whose house is less than half a mile away from Terminal 5 and at peak periods there is one flight every 45 seconds, said although today’s announcement ruled out her village of Stanwell Moor, it would force others to endure the “horrendous” noise that she already suffers.
Mrs Croft, chairwoman of Stanwell Moor Residents Association, said: “This option of extending the northern runway is one that I wasn’t even aware of. If they can extend the northern runway there’s nothing to say that they won’t come back and say they can extend the southern runway too.”
Gatwick campaigners claimed the Sussex site is also “unsuitable” saying the area is too small.
Brendon Sewill, chairman of Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, said: “Now the battle is for real. The battle lines are drawn. Now the spotlight is on Gatwick the next step will be to examine the runway plans in detail, and it will be found that Gatwick is an unsuitable site.
“It is too small, it can never be a four-runway hub, and the ‘constellation’ concept – London with three airports each with two runways – is coming unstuck. Research shows that no other city in the world has two competing hubs.”
He added that the organisation agreed with the claim by national environmental groups that no new runway could be reconciled with the UK’s obligations under the Climate Change Act.
He said: “We are delighted that our friends at Stansted have had the threat to their homes and environment lifted.
“Over the past 10 years they have fought a good fight and won a worthy victory. Now we at Gatwick must do the same. We have done it before in 1970, 1993, and 2003 and we will do it again.”
Tories betrayed us, say locals living in Heathrow’s shadow
- Phil Rumsey in Harmondsworth Great Barn, a unique 15th Century Tithe BarnPaul Rogers
Sir John Betjeman called it the cathedral of Middlesex, but Harmondsworth Great Barn, the country’s biggest surviving medieval timber-framed building,stands on a battleground over the future of British aviation.
Plans endorsed this week for the first runway in 60 years could leave the Grade I timbers, the adjacent Norman church and 1,500 homes in the villages of Harmondsworth and Longford buried beneath Heathrow’s third runway.
After the initial shock at an announcement from Sir Howard Davies, head of the Airports Commission, that his favoured option for Heathrow expansion was a 3.5km runway and new terminal 6 northwest of the airport, the villagers are now driven by anger and a deep sense of betrayal.
They are plotting a campaign of protests and demonstrations in the new year. Their target is David Cameron, who they claim promised to ban a third runway, only to open the door to Heathrow expansion once in office.
The airport has started buying up homes as it hones its plans, but villagers are preparing to fight one last stand against the giant on their doorstep.
At an impromptu meeting with other villagers hoping to ward off the bulldozers, Audrey Holdsworth, 84, recalled the 58 years that she has lived in Harmondsworth. “I was married in the church. My children were born here. They were christened here. They went to school here. My husband is buried in the church and so are my parents. It’s disgraceful what they want to do,” she said.
“I have been badly let down. When David Cameron said ‘no third runway’ I bought double glazing and a new heating system. Once you have spent your pension, you can’t get it back, can you? I have always voted Conservative but I don’t know next time. If we get [a third runway] I won’t vote for him.”
Eilish Stone, who has lived in the village for almost 30 years and raised three sons there, criticised the Prime Minister for delaying until after the 2015 election a decision on whether to build the next runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. “I do feel betrayed because they don’t keep their promises. This is a political game. We all feel cheated. I don’t trust anyone anymore.”
The anger resonates inside the flint-fronted St Mary’s Church, first built in 1067. Its vicar, the Ven Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, said: “This is just like being on death row for a long time. I feel very angry now because the Tories have lied. They got the vote of the people and now it is going to happen. A lot of parishioners here are devastated.”
Inside the towering vault of the Great Barn, Phil Rumsey, chairman of the Friends of the Great Barn preservation group, vowed to defend the 191ft structure built in 1427. “Over my dead body. It is something we are not prepared to stand back and see happen,” he said.
They may seem unlikely supporters of direct action, but the people of Harmondsworth are planning flashmob protests and demonstrations. They could scarcely be pitted against more powerful opponents than the Whitehall machine and the international investors who own Heathrow.
As well as the houses bought by the airport — 32 at the last count — it has commissioned opinion polls suggesting that a third runway has local support. A Populus poll found that 48 per cent of people living in Hounslow, Ealing, Richmond, Spelthorne and Windsor constituencies and the London Borough of Hillingdon supported expansion, compared with 36 per cent who were against.
“This research suggests that the political costs of supporting a third runway at Heathrow have been vastly overstated,” said Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow.
The people of Harmondsworth tell a different story.
David Cameron ‘lied to Londoners about blocking third runway’
Speaker John Bercow was forced to intervene in a clash between Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell and the Prime Minister.
The Left-winger attacked the PM after the Airports Commission yesterday short-listed Heathrow as an option for the first new major runway in the South-East for more than 60 years.
He said: “At the last election, many of my constituents truly believed the Prime Minister when he said, ‘No ifs, no buts, there’ll be no third runway at Heathrow’. They now face the threat of a third runway, a fourth runway, thousands losing their home, schools demolished, even the threat of having to dig up our dead at the local cemetery.”
Many residents in west London had “lost faith in the PM as a man that keeps his word”, Mr McDonnell added after the Tories put the possibility of Heathrow expansion back on the agenda.
The Prime Minister flatly rejected the criticism, with senior Tories stressing that the pledge was for this Parliament, not necessarily beyond it. He hit back at Prime Minister’s Questions: “We said that there would not be a third runway and we’ve stuck with that promise.”
He said there was cross-party support for the Airports Commission, due to publish its final report — after the 2015 election — identifying where a new runway should be built before 2030.
But Mr McDonnell yelled out: “You lied to my constituents.” Mr Cameron accused the Labour MP of “shouting inappropriately” and urged him to read the interim report which also short-listed Gatwick but not Stansted or the Thames estuary for expansion.
Amid anger among Tory backbenchers over Mr McDonnell’s “lying” allegation, Mr Bercow intervened but did not reprimand the Labour MP.
The Speaker said reference had been made to “treatment of constituents” not to observations made in respect of members of the House, a stance which appeared to displease Mr Cameron.
Heathrow chiefs today stepped up their battle to win political support for a third runway, with a poll claiming that MPs are more likely to be re-elected in 2015 if they support expansion.
The bosses sought to counter the wide belief that west London MPs backing a bigger Heathrow could lose more votes than they would gain.
A Populus survey, commissioned by Heathrow, of six constituencies and the wider borough of Hillingdon found 24 per cent of people saying they were more likely to vote for a local MP who supported Heathrow expansion and 15 per cent who were less likely. For 60 per cent it would have no impact.
From the Economist
“Gatwick boosters argue that the age of the European hub airport may be drawing to a close. Even medium-sized aeroplanes can now stay airborne for huge distances. As it becomes easier to run point-to-point services between widely spaced cities, hubs may become less important. In any case, no European hub can beat Dubai. If the market is moving away from European hubs, Britain might be able to get away with a two-runway Heathrow and a two-runway Gatwick.
“But that would be a risk. Hubs might become less important—but then again they might not. Gatwick might never really challenge Heathrow; and a constrained Heathrow could lose ground against other European airports. Safer to build on success than try to build up an alternative, if the cost of failure is the hobbling of Britain’s economy.”