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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Living in Heathrow's shadow
Planes at Heathrow
Heathrow is the UK's largest airport
As the government unveils proposals to build new airport runways in an attempt to cope with rising UK demand for air travel, BBC News Online speaks to one community that could suffer as a result.

Another day, another proposal to expand Heathrow - it's nothing new for those who live in Sipson, Middlesex.

The village is situated in the shadow of Heathrow - the UK's largest airport - and its residents are seasoned campaigners when it comes to fighting expansions.

Launch new window : Heathrow's third runway
Click above to see who it would affect

Proposals for a third runway at the airport have been put forward by the government and, if they are agreed, it is expected several thousand homes in Sipson will have to be bulldozed to make way for it.

Residents face having compulsory purchase orders slapped on their homes and their community being up-rooted.

Doreen Whitford
Doreen Whitford: We will fight
The proposals will go out to consultation, but the residents of Sipson have been in the same position before and are sceptical that their views will be taken into consideration.

"The government is going through the motions and that's all," said Doreen Whitford.

The 62-year-old has lived in the village all her life and remembers Heathrow being built.

She says previous campaigns against airport expansion plans have taught locals not to trust the government or airport authorities.

'Blight'

"When they built Terminal Four they assured us that was it and then they agreed Terminal Five," she told BBC News Online.

"A condition of Terminal Five was that a third runway would not be built but now the proposal is back in the frame.

"We will fight the plans for Heathrow but I honestly believe the government has made its mind up and there may be little we can do about it."

Eddie Francis
Eddie Francis: Village life is at a standstill
Eddie Francis, 78, is worried the proposals will be another nail in the coffin of village life.

"House prices may be escalating everywhere else but we are experiencing a blight here," he said.

"No one wants to move into the village because of the threat of a third runway, and possibly being rehoused, as a result no one can sell.

"Even if you did get a buyer, properties in other parts of Middlesex are so expensive we couldn't afford anything like what we have here.

"We can't do anything in this village but stand still."

'Sham'

Some residents say the money being spent on the consultation should be used to compensate the people who will be affected by whatever plan gets the go ahead.

"The government knows what it wants to do and should just come out and say it rather than go through another sham consultation," said Derek Mann.

"Unfortunately someone is going to be the loser. At least communities like ours would know where they stood and the money being wasted on the consultation could go into compensating them.


We are talking about our lives and our community, that's worth kicking up a fuss for

Doreen Whitford
"We all know how hard it will be if our homes are compulsory purchased. We will not get full value for them and as a result will not be able to buy anything similar unless we move miles away.

"Then there is the schools and local businesses, what will happen to them?"

The Heathrow anti-noise group, Hacan ClearSkies, has questioned the figures used by the government to justify airport expansion

According to the statistics, UK air passenger numbers are expected to more than double from 180m a year to 400m by 2020.

But Hacan chairman John Stewart said the government was living in a "fantasyland".

"The government has arrived at these figures based on how air passenger numbers rose in the 1990s," he said.

"But that was a unique situation. Incomes increased during this time and really cheap flights came into play for the first time.

Fight

"There is no evidence that this situation will be repeated over the next 20 years."

He also expressed reservations about how genuine the government's consultation would be.

But whatever their fears about the consultation process, Sipson residents say they will get involved.

"The government has a fight on its hands," said Mrs Whitford.

"It might be a tough fight but that has never stopped us before. We are talking about our lives and our community, that's worth kicking up a fuss for."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Montague at Heathrow Airport
"After 50 years of fighting the Heathrow residents' battle is only just beginning"

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23 Jul 02 | UK
05 Jul 02 | Business
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