VICTIMS OF A PETRIFIED HOUSING MARKET
(press release issued 2 October 2004 by Stop Stansted Expansion)
The extent of hardship and frustration suffered by home owners unable to sell their properties because of the threat of expansion at Stansted Airport is revealed in a dossier compiled by Stop Stansted Expansion.
For many home owners, ‘airport blight’ started to take its toll two or more years ago and shows no sign of let-up despite the publication of BAA's compensation scheme and its recent claims that estate agents believe a bigger airport would increase demand for houses.
Severe financial loss, careers on hold, retirement postponed and health under threat - these are examples of the collateral damage that has been caused already by BAA's proposals for a second runway and heavier use of the existing runway.
From phone calls, letters and emails flooding into its campaign office, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has compiled a dossier showing that some of the worst affected families are those outside the 66 dBA noise zone. This is an arbitrary perimeter drawn up by BAA to single out homes that could qualify for compensation under its Home Owners' Support Scheme (HOSS).
Residents who find themselves outside the qualifying noise zone - in some cases only a few metres outside - are furious because in many instances they are suffering a similar level of blight to those entitled to compensation. Even those within the noise zone criticise the HOSS scheme for its complexity, delay before any pay-out and likely financial penalty in the event of selling to BAA under the scheme.
As to future prospects, most have no idea if and when they will be able to sell their properties - and some are convinced they may never find buyers at anything like the price they expected.
A problem common to all the hardship cases looked at by SSE is that potential buyers are put off when they realise the extent of possible airport growth - regardless of whether the houses are within the 66 dBA noise zone or close to it.
As chartered surveyor Michael Snow of Snow Walker Associates, put it, "We're looking at a petrified housing market."
This is confirmed by Land Registry figures that show that while houses generally in Essex have increased in value in the last two years by 31 per cent, those in Uttlesford closest to the airport - approximately 12,000 homes in a five-mile radius of Stansted - have, at best, stood still and in many cases lost substantial value.
Peter Sanders, SSE's chairman, said: "Our dossier shows quite clearly that families have suffered not just financial loss but extreme personal distress and hardship, sometimes with poor health as a result. In most instances life has simply been put on hold. This outcome was totally predictable - and all the worse for that."
Referring to BAA's survey of estate agents, he said: "It is the nature of estate agents to be optimistic but it is impossible to make predictions when so much uncertainty surrounds future airport expansion.
"The truth is that airport blight has already hit home for many local families. BAA will be aware of that because many of the families we have spoken to have raised their cases with the airport operator."
BAA has focused almost entirely on the problem of noise in the immediate vicinity of the airport, says Mr Sanders. "Our dossier illustrates the impact of generalised blight outside BAA's 66 dBA noise zone and it is further underlined by Land Registry figures that show that thousands of homes could be affected.
"BAA has not addressed the wider issue of generalised blight as it is required to do under the terms of the aviation White Paper. Our information confirms that this is a much bigger problem than BAA - and, it would appear, estate agents - appreciate."
These are the stories of just some of the people caught in the trap of property blight:
- THE ENGINEER in Takeley who feels he has been robbed of two years of his retirement because he cannot sell his house. He wants to move to a property with a larger garden where he can build a workshop to pursue his hobby of restoring classic cars.
While the price of his four-bedroom detached house has stagnated over the last two years, prices in the area earmarked for his retirement have gone up by between 30 and 40 per cent.
His house is within the qualifying noise zone. Like another Takeley resident about to retire but unable to sell his house, he resents the fact that under the HOSS proposals he would have to market his house for nine months before receiving an offer. He questions whether any estate agent would take on a property under those conditions. He could suffer further by being financially penalised under the clause that allows BAA to offer a price within 15 per cent of the house price index.
- THE YOUNG COUPLE in Broxted ‘desperate’ to sell and move away from the airport because they have an autistic child whose body cannot filter toxins. They feel the support network where they live is inadequate and need to be closer to parents who can share the task of caring for their son.
They would have been prepared to ‘swallow’ the loss on their property that currently amounts to close to £100,000, but need the money to make better provision for their son.
BAA says it will consider their case but because they live just outside the 66 dBA zone, the couple are not hopeful.
- THE RETIRED COUPLE who need to sell the house they have occupied in Pledgdon Green for 40 years because it is too large to manage. They face a loss of as much as £170,000 due to airport blight. Twenty-seven people viewed the house but all were deterred by its proximity to the existing runway and the prospect of a second runway.
Because the couple are outside the qualifying noise zone, BAA has so far refused compensation. Ironically, according to BAA, they might qualify for compensation because of the proximity of the house to a planned slip road linking the A120 and the M11. However, BAA says that the slip road would not be its responsibility and, in any event, nothing will be decided until 2005. Their dilemma is made worse by the fact that expansion was ruled out in two previous inquiries.
- THE FIRST-TIME HOME OWNERS in Great Easton who want to move to a larger property because they have one child and another on the way. Despite 61 viewings, they have had only one offer - and the potential buyers pulled out when they discovered the extent of planned airport expansion.
Their house is now worth no more than in 2002 and, according to their estate agent, would be worth an additional £35,000 without the airport. Like the retired couple (above) they also face the double whammy of the airport and the A120/M11 slip road - except in their case, two of the three proposals show the road going through the middle of their house.
They believe it would be a waste of time to put their home back on the market. Their house is just 300 metres outside the qualifying noise zone. They have pressured Terry Morgan, Stansted Airport managing director, to join them in a meeting with Alistair McDermid, director of Generation 2, to discuss their plight.
- THE YOUNG MUM with two small children who wants to move north to study to become a midwife but cannot sell the family home in Great Hallingbury, which is outside the qualifying noise zone. This despite dropping the price by £50,000. She is frustrated that the health service is crying out for midwives but because of the blight on their home, she has had to postpone her university application for at least a year.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- All the homeowners mentioned above would be willing to give media interviews and be quoted. The YOUNG MUM is happy to talk to the media but wishes to remain anonymous. If you would like to follow up any of these stories, or for more information, contact:
- Mike Fairchild (primary contact) 01279 771302
- Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE 0777 552 3091
- House price inflation:
Using Land Registry figures for April/June 2002-2004 (house prices, all types):
- Essex overall, up 31%
- Uttlesford District overall, up 13.5%
- Uttlesford south (approximately 12,000 homes within about a 5-mile radius of Stansted - the area affected by generalised blight), a price stand-still at best
- Property prices in Uttlesford north equate roughly to Essex overall (+31%).
- Homes within the 66 dBA zone where BAA could offer compensation under its HOSS scheme number approximately 500.
"BAA the Target of Legal Action Over Expansion Blight" - press release issued 2 January 2005 by Takeley Parish Council
"Legal Action Initiated Over Stansted Expansion Blight" - press release issued 16 November 2004 by Takeley Parish Council
"BAA consider special cases" - press release issued 2 November 2004 by BAA
Open letter to BAA on the revised scheme - issued 7 October 2004 by Takeley Parish Council
"Local estate agents back Stansted's development" - press release issued 28 September 2004 by BAA
"BAA Disregards Compensation Obligations" - press release issued 21 September 2004 by SSE
"New initiative launched at Stansted" - press release issued 21 Sep 2004 by BAA