Page last updated at 02:32 GMT, Friday, 23 November 2007

Blighted lives in Heathrow's path

By Victoria Bone
BBC News


Jack Clark, Sipson resident
Jack Clark has lived in the village of Sipson for 80 years
Jack Clark is 95 and has lived in Sipson, Middlesex for 80 years. In all that time, he has fallen out with just one neighbour - BAA.

Today, he faces the prospect of seeing his home and his village razed if plans for a third runway at Heathrow go ahead.

"I don't think it worries some people - moving - but it worries me. I don't think I'd be happy anywhere else," he says.

"This is all I know."

Sipson is where Jack met his wife of 67 years, Daisy May. Nearby is where his "old sweetheart" is now buried.

Even the site her grave could be churned up and concreted over if the British Airports Authority (BAA), owned by Spanish firm Ferrovial, gets its way.

"I would hate to see them interfere with that. I would be very disappointed if I couldn't go and see my old girl," he says.

Jack could also lose his biggest passion - his racing pigeons - which he keeps in his garden and which have won him and son Robin numerous prizes.

I honestly think it's quite big enough
Jack Clark, 95, Sipson resident

"My lad will be shattered, but we couldn't keep them. He lives in a caravan and I'll be put in a flat.

"It'll be sad to give them up, but we'll have to."

For 39 years, Jack worked on a farm, Wild and Robbins, right next door to Heathrow. When that closed he tried to get work at the airport, but was told - at 55 - that he was too old.

"There was no airport to speak of when I was a lad. There were just little twin engine aircraft that came from America. They were like toy planes, not like Heathrow's got now.

"I honestly think it's quite big enough. If they ran it better, got the efficiency right, they wouldn't need to build. People like me wouldn't need to move."

'Hanging over us'

Despite its proximity to London and the world's busiest airport, Sipson still bears the hallmarks of a traditional village.

There really is a community and there really are successive generations of families living side by side.

As proof, Jack's 35-year-old granddaughter Jackie is the village hairdresser.

Jackie Clark, Sipson resident
Jackie Clark has put the uncertainty to one side and opened a business

But unlike most hairdressers, Jackie doesn't have to make small-talk about the weather.

"There's only one topic of conversation in this village," she says.

"It's always there, hanging over us. Everyone talks about it when they come in, even our MP John McDonnell. After all, he'll have no constituency left."

Unlike some, Jackie has refused to let the threat of development rule her life and, in fact, she only opened her shop this year.

"You can't put your life on hold. I'd wanted to do it for so long and everyone in the village wanted me to, so I just decided to get on with it."

Jackie has no idea what compensation she will get if her business is forced to close, but in the meantime she fears the village she was born in and loves dearly could be ruined.

"People haven't been able to sell because of the blight on prices, so they've moved away and got tenants in," she says.

"Unfortunately, and I know it sounds snobbish, but it's lowered the tone.

"This place means a lot to us, but these people are only here for a short time and they don't care about it as much as we do. Crime has gone up too. We've had burglaries and assaults and old people don't feel as safe as they used to."

No Third Runway protest sign
Posters adorn virtually every window in Sipson

One of Jackie's customers Joan Willoughby agrees: "The atmosphere of the place has changed, particularly in the last year or two.

"And some people have given up the fight because their hands are tied.

"On the one hand, they're fighting against the corporation that's trying to take their homes, but at the same time they work for the airport so they can only say so much against their employer."

Joan, 57, has lived in Sipson for 30 years and her husband Alan was born there. She feels the prospect of being moved has left people deeply unsettled.

"People were born here and they expected to get married here, raise kids here, die here," she says. "Now all of that's changed and people don't know what to do.

"They just want answers. They want to know for certain what's going happen."

'Time-bomb'

Just down the road lives Lynne Davis who has "No Third Runway" posters plastered all over her garden.

Lynne, 59, is a self-confessed Heathrow "militant", but it is clear the fight has taken its toll on her.

"I'm depressed, I don't sleep. It's like a time-bomb and you don't know when it's going to explode," she says.

"BAA stand to make millions, billions even, from our misery."

BAA have spoiled the quality of life for whatever time we have left here
Maxine Payne, 42, Sipson resident

Lynne has lived in her house for 38 years. Throughout that time her sister Lesley has lived next door. Both fear there is little chance of them finding somewhere together if they are forced out.

"We don't want to go, this is our home," Lynne says.

"We stand to lose so much. Our friends are here, we all know each other, we help each other. It's a proper village and we're all tied to it.

"You have to be young to settle somewhere new and so many of the people here are elderly. I'm afraid of what the upheaval of moving could do."

Jim Payne, 45, and his wife Maxine, 42, have lived in Sipson for 22 years.

Three years ago they almost threw in the towel and tried to move, but the estimated value of their house dropped by 60,000 in three weeks, so instead they decided to stay and fight.

Lynne Davis, Sipson resident
Lynne Davis hates the thought of losing the community she loves

Jim, 45, says: "I'm extremely bitter. How can a government give human rights to murderers and terrorists, but give a foreign company Ferrovial the right to evict British citizens from their homes?

"They're not even offering us like for like - a new life in another village. They're just going to stick us on some estate with no community. It's criminal."

But with all this heartache, can Sipson really still be somewhere anyone would want to stay?

For these residents at least, the answer is "Yes" - but with a caveat.

Mother-of-two Maxine says: "It is still good here sometimes, but it's not what it was.

"BAA have spoiled the quality of life for whatever time we have left here."



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