Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called upon BAA to stop drip-feeding the community and publish full details of its main compensation scheme without further delay.
So far, BAA has only published details of two limited compensation schemes. In January 2004, the airport operator announced details of its ‘Home Value Guarantee Scheme’ to be offered to 107 homeowners whose homes stand in the way of the BAA's proposed second runway.
In February 2004, BAA published its proposals for another very localised scheme - the ‘Home Owners Support Scheme’ - for people whose homes would fall within the 66 decibel (intolerable noise) contour if a second runway were ever built. BAA estimates that only 500 homeowners in the immediate vicinity of the airport will be eligible and homeowners will need to prove to BAA that the value of their home has fallen by at least 15%.
But BAA has so far been silent on the much more comprehensive scheme which it must introduce to compensate thousands of local residents for ‘generalised blight’. This will need to extend to a much wider area in view of the devaluation of local house prices which has taken place as a result of the prospect of massive airport expansion.
Official Land Registry statistics show that, the average Uttlesford homeowner has lost £28,000 as a result of the threat of airport expansion, relative to the general uplift in house prices for Essex as a whole. The total loss in value is £572 million for Uttlesford District alone [see Note 1].
The Government's Air Transport White Paper calls upon BAA to put in place a scheme to address the problem of ‘generalised blight’ resulting from the runway proposal [see Note 2]. Importantly, the Government recognises that the prospect of a new runway causes generalised blight - regardless of whether the runway is ever built.
"It is not simply aircraft noise which is the problem," said SSE Chairman Norman Mead. "Concerns about local air quality and urbanisation also have an adverse effect on local property values and the official Land Registry statistics show just how much damage has already been done to local house prices."
SSE is not against the principle of using noise projections as the basis for compensating homeowners but it is a question of using the correct noise contours. The 66 decibel noise contour is wholly unacceptable. Only about 500 homes fall within this. The correct basis would be the 50 decibel noise contour, in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO). SSE estimates that between 18,000 and 19,000 local homes fall within the WHO contour.
Mr Mead added: "Although the chances of a second runway ever being built may be remote, the damage has already been done in terms of blighting local property values. If a local resident goes to sell his or her home, the price has been substantially devalued as a consequence of the threat of expansion. The problem is with us here and now and BAA must now announce its main compensation plan without further delay."
SSE has written to local parish councils, Uttlesford and East Herts District Councils (including councillors) and Essex and Herts County Councils (including councillors) and to local MPs to highlight the obligations upon BAA to introduce comprehensive compensation arrangements. In addition SSE is pressing for a proper public consultation on BAA's Home Owners Support Scheme and for the consultation period to be extended from 30 April 2004 to 31 May 2004 [see Note 3].
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Note 1: Based on Land Registry quarterly statistics between April - June 2002 (i.e. immediately prior to publication of the airport expansion proposals) and October-December 2003 (latest available statistics) for Uttlesford District versus the rest of Essex.
Note 2: "The airport operator will need to put in place a scheme to address the problem of generalised blight resulting from the runway proposal" - ‘The Future of Air Transport White Paper’ (Para 11.41).
Note 3: A copy of this letter is available upon request from the campaign office email@example.com or 01279 870558.