Campaigners want homeowners compensated for any drop in house prices if Stansted Airport is shortlisted for expansion
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CAMPAIGNERS have called for homeowners living near Stansted to be compensated for any drop in house prices if the airport is shortlisted for expansion.
Pressure group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has joined forces with six other campaign bodies in writing to Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, urging him to safeguard people against airport-related blight.
The commission is due to produce an interim report at the end of this year and, if it concludes that the UK needs more airport capacity, it will publish a shortlist of options.
SSE says it is inevitable that homes near airports earmarked for expansion will go down in price, regardless of whether that expansion ever goes ahead.
Its economics adviser, Brian Ross, said: “We know from past experience that, as soon as any shortlist of airport expansion options is published, every single area on that shortlist will be hit by generalised blight and local residents will experience not only stress and anxiety, but immediate difficulties in selling their homes.
“The UK already has more than enough airport capacity but Sir Howard Davies has opened a Pandora’s Box by inviting airport expansion proposals from all and sundry. As soon as he publishes his shortlist, local communities will be blighted for years, even if no new runways are ever built.”
According to Mr Ross, the last time that Stansted was short-listed for major expansion, in 2002, £570 million was wiped off local house prices during the next 18 months, affecting an area of about 150 square miles.
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A scheme to compensate people forced to sell their home below the market value was eventually introduced by BAA in 2004, but Mr Ross described it as being “too little, too late.” He added: “There is now the prospect of history repeating itself.”
The letter to Sir Howard Davies has also been co-signed by campaigners based near airports at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Birmingham and Bristol airports, as well as proposed new airports in the River Thames and River Severn.
It calls on Sir Howard “to make it a pre-condition for being short-listed for the promoter of an airport development proposal to undertake to introduce fair and reasonable arrangements to address the problem of generalised blight arising from their proposal within three months of being shortlisted and to operate such arrangements for a minimum period of two years.”
Mr Ross said: “Those who are promoting airport expansion projects must take some responsibility for the consequences. They cannot simply be allowed to dine out for free on their airport expansion dreams, leaving local residents to pick up the tab.”
Although the commission is due to be published this year, a final report will not be published until mid-2015, after the next general election.