‘Blight’ of a new runway at Gatwick would reduce the value of thousands of people’s homes

Horsham Advertiser pictures 2013
Horsham Advertiser pictures 2013
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Plans for a new runway at Gatwick Airport will ‘cause widespread blight’ and knock thousands of pounds from house values according to the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC).

Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) is due to publish its plans for a new runway on, or shortly before, July 19.

Brendon Sewill, chairman of GACC, said: “People will be unable to sell their houses except at a substantial loss.

“Working men and women will find themselves unable to move to take up a new job; retired couples will find their hopes dashed of moving to a smaller house in another area.

“Anxiety will be caused to thousands of people and some may be driven to desperation.”

BAA, the former owners of Gatwick, had a scheme, the Property Market Support Bond, in place so that homeowners close to the new runway could obtain a legal promise that, if a runway went ahead, the airport would buy their house at the pre-blight price.

GACC has asked GAL to re-instate that scheme and to extend it to a far wider area – it only covered about 280 houses.

However, GAL’s response has been to say that the scheme is under review and nothing will be decided until the Airports Commission reports in 2015.

In a statement released to this paper, a spokesperson said: “As part of the work we are doing for the Airports Commission, we are undertaking detailed studies to review and minimise the environmental impacts of various runway options, including noise impacts.

“Any new runway option, at Gatwick or elsewhere, that the Airports Commission may recommend to Government will have some noise impacts.

“However, with a second runway at Gatwick there would still be significantly fewer people affected by noise than at Heathrow for example whose noise impacts today exceeds the combined impact of all the other hub airports in Western Europe.

“Gatwick Airport takes local community concerns about noise seriously.

“We have two relevant voluntary blight schemes in place today which would be triggered if the Government gave the go-ahead for a second runway at Gatwick and planning consent was sought. Homeowners are welcome to apply to either scheme today.

“The extent of the schemes are currently under review as a result of the work being undertaken by the Government’s Airports Commission.”

Mr Sewill of GACC finds GAL’s position is far from satisfactory. He said: “When Gatwick is pushing so hard for a new runway that attitude demonstrates a callous disregard for the local community.”

GACC met Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, on Monday 24 June. Sir Howard expressed considerable interest in the subject of blight, and GACC told him about the negative attitude of GAL.

GACC has asked the Commission to insist that all airports which are due to put forward plans for new runways should introduce a scheme for dealing with blight.

GACC reckons that blight could affect more than 10,000 houses (30,000 people). That is the number that may fall within the 54 leq contour for a new runway, i.e. the number which would be affected by severe or moderate noise annoyance.

Blight would also be caused to those local businesses which depend on peace and quiet, such as golf courses, country house hotels, outdoor attractions etc, and to churches and other public buildings which may not be able to obtain grants for essential maintenance or improvement while the uncertainty persists.

Indeed the extent of blight could be much wider, and could affect properties in local towns such as Horsham, Dorking, Reigate, Redhill, Oxted, and East Grinstead, when Gatwick Airport publish the new flight paths from the proposed runway.

GACC might be accused of worsening the situation by recently publishing maps showing the possible new flight paths from a new runway - “Not so,” said Mr Sewill, “the blight will be caused by the runway plans, and by the airport not telling the truth about what they would entail.”

The Property Market Support Bond was originally suggested by GACC in the 1990s. The possession of a legal promise to pay the inflation-adjusted pre-blight price would help people to sell their houses during the intervening period.

When the airport publishes its new runway plans it ‘should come clean about where the new flight paths will be’ according to GACC. The Support Bond should be extended to all properties likely to be blighted – up to fifteen miles or twenty miles from the airport.

Gatwick Airport Ltd should also provide substantial grants for repairs to public buildings where uncertainty causes normal funding to dry up.

“It is important to prevent the area around Gatwick becoming blighted and run-down,” said Mr Sewill.