3rd Runway Home Demolitions

Pressure group accuses government of burying the true number of homes that might be demolished to make way for 3rd runway at Heathrow

A pressure group has accused the Government of burying the true number of homes that might need to be demolished to make way for a 3rd runway at Heathrow. HACAN ClearSkies, which represents residents under the Heathrow flight path, has unearthed evidence which suggests the number could be much higher than the 260 the Government has talked about. The Government might need to evict 35,000 people from their homes if an expanded Heathrow is to keep within the air pollution standards set down by the European Union.

The consultation document looking at options for airport expansion in the South East, published last week (1), admits that, if a 3rd runway were built, 35,000 people in the Heathrow area could, by 2015, be exposed to levels of nitrogen oxide above that permitted by the European Union (2).

In the consultation document the Government admits that, if it decided to go ahead with the 3rd runway, the only way it might be able to stay within EU limits would be to buy the properties of the people who would be exposed to unlawful levels of nitrogen oxide. The consultation document says the Government might “undertake fully to fund the purchase (and, if necessary, demolition) of properties which would otherwise be made subject to exceedences, and to properly compensate the owners (3).”

John Stewart, the Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, “Jo Moore would be proud of the way the Government has buried this information. It is tucked away in 3 lines in the consultation document well away from the section on land and property. The Government needs to come clean. Just how many houses could go and where will there be. Many of the homes to go could be well away from the site of the new runway”

John Mcdonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said, “Nobody believes that only 260 homes will go. If a runway is built many more homes will become unliveable because of the noise and the pollution. I will be pushing for a clear statement on exactly how many homes will be lost.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The Regional Air Studies, laying out options for airport expansion across the country, were published by the Department for Transport on Tuesday 23rd July. They are being put out for 4 months consultation. The results will be fed into the Aviation White Paper, due out in Spring 2003. SERAS (the South East Regional Air Study) outlined options for London and the South East. The options included the building of a 3rd “shorter” runway at Heathrow.

  2. Government can be subject to hefty fines by the European Court of Justice when pollution levels are exceeded. If it is drawn to the attention of the European Commission that a member state is breaching the pollution limits, the EC is obliged to ask the member state to comply. If it refuses, the EC is required to take the member state to the European Court of Justice. If the Court finds the member state guilty, it imposes fines backdated to when the breach occurred and the fines are added to on a daily basis until the member state complies. This why the Government states in the section on Air Quality (p56): “Another runway at Heathrow could not be considered that levels of all relevant pollutants could be consistently contained within EU limits”. The one way the Government could get round the EU air quality limits would to remove the people exposed to the limits by compulsorily purchasing and knocking down their homes. This emerges on p120 of the document: “undertake fully to fund the purchase (and, if necessary, demolition) of properties which would otherwise be made subject to exceedences, and to properly compensate the owners”

  3. The other key quotes in the consultation document:

    In the section dealing with Land and Property (page 53): “around 260 homes would need to be physically taken”.

    In the section on Air Quality (page 55): “our modelling predicts there will be significant numbers of people exposed [to nitrogen oxide] in 2015 if a third runway is built”, but admits that number could fall to 5,000 if there were significant improvements in aircraft technology. The documemt makes no attempt to assess how likely these improvements are. But most experts agree that the industry has still to develop the technology to significantly cut levels of nitrogen oxide.

For further information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650 (mobile); or Brian Sobey (of the local residents association in Harmondsworth) 0208 759 1677.