Destruction of Homes

Destruction of homes briefing sheet

CHATR: Heathrow Third Runway Blights London Homes

Graham Blakoe, Events Manager, Chiswick Against Third Runway investigates the effect of Heathrow’s proposed 3rd Runway on London homes


The villagers of Harmondsworth in West London live under a ‘Sword of Damocles’. Some 750 of their homes will be demolished if the 3rd Runway gets the go ahead, and hundreds more blighted. Unsurprisingly, residents have taken a defiant stand. 

Harmondsworth is a small village in West London with 1500 inhabitants, some 17th century houses, the 950 year old St Mary the Virgin church, a stunning medieval barn and The Five Bells locals’ pub. It boasts a primary school, numerous successful local businesses and most prized of all by the residents, a vibrant community, including some people who have lived in the village all their lives. All this is threatened by an impending disaster: the demolition of around 750 homes and the eradication of the community.

Harmondsworth’s neighbour, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd (HAL), wants to bulldoze their homes to make way for a new runway, which would allow the airport to handle an additional 240,000 flights each year.  Although residents would receive above market value compensation, many argue they would still be priced out of the London market altogether. More importantly for locals, it would be impossible to re-create their community elsewhere. Families and friends will be split up losing close ties built up over many years.


Cameron's Promise

When David Cameron promised Londoners in 2009, ‘the third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead, no ifs, no buts’, the news thrilled Harmondsworth villagers. This brought an end to uncertainty and they started making plans for the future. But half way through his first term as Prime Minister, Cameron set up the Airports Commission to look yet again at the question of a 3rd runway. Bryan Tomlinson, a local taxi driver, told The Guardian he is defiant in the face of the recommendation in favour of Heathrow expansion by the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies. “He will never beat us. At the moment the people fighting are taxi drivers, hairdressers, mums, housewives and retired people. We are the frontline. But very shortly you will have Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace turning up and every person who believes the climate change act should be honoured by our government. There will be millions of angry people across the country who will make a fuss… They will be climbing Big Ben.”

Such is the strength of feeling that some residents of the Heathrow villages, who have never broken the law before, have resorted to civil disobedience in order to save their communities. Some of the ‘Heathrow 13’ activists, who cut through Heathrow’s perimeter fence and chained themselves together on land close to the northern runway, came from the nearby village of Sipson.  They were convinced their actions were justified, not only because of the destruction of homes, but also because of the serious environmental impact resulting from the carbon emissions of the additional flights.  The Campaign to Protect Rural England has estimated that Heathrow alone would be responsible for over 50% of the UK aviation carbon emissions by 2050.


Degradation of Housing in West London

Strong feelings against the 3rd runway have been roused not just by the destruction of Harmondsworth but also the degradation of hundreds of thousands of homes under new flightpaths.  Across a swathe of London and its suburbs - from Maidenhead to Chiswick, Windsor to Putney – communities are threatened.

For those under or near new flightpaths, the noise effects could be devastating: windows that cannot be opened, gardens that cannot be used, upper floor flats or bedrooms in which it will be near-impossible to get a good night’s sleep because of the noise. The additional flights could affect millions across London and research has shown that the noise alone can cause hypertension, leading to serious health issues.

“When it comes to residents of the area who are permanently affected on a daily and nightly basis, it seems unbelievable that almost no compensation is suggested by the Airports Commission,” argues Jane Davison, Professor of Accounting, Royal Holloway, University of London. “Although the Commission’s Report repeatedly refers to the importance of ‘generous/world class compensation’ for residents, this generous compensation appears to consist of noise insulation of about £4,300 per house, for the 160,000 homes most badly affected, which hardly appears ‘world class’. For the remaining population, no compensation is proposed. Insulation only makes partial improvement, is of no use in the summer with windows open, and you cannot in any case double glaze a garden, playground or park against noise or air pollution. No compensation is proposed for the loss of property value that is likely to accompany new flightpaths and loss of respite from existing flightpaths. Thus effectively, there would be a transfer of value from residents to the shareholders of Heathrow, who are almost entirely non-UK. This value transfer has not been calculated by the Airports Commission but is likely to be extremely large.” 



The campaign against the third runway at Heathrow has attracted the biggest, most diverse coalition ever assembled against airport expansion. It includes politicians of all parties, economists, local residents, business people, trade unionists, environmentalists and direct action activists.

The government has indicated it will make a decision on whether to back a third runway at Heathrow before the summer. A dark cloud of uncertainty looms over London. The future of the community of Harmondsworth hangs in the balance.

The right decision must be made – the decision not to build a destructive, expensive, dangerous and polluting third runway which will kill a vibrant community and make the lives of countless more residents of London a misery. It is time the government and the airport listened to the wishes of the people whose lives are being destroyed.

Graham Blakoe is a management consultant based in Chiswick

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