Heathrow Airport villages 'dying due to buy-up scheme'

Heathrow airport runway
Image caption The coalition government has said it does not support a new runway at Heathrow Airport

Villages around Heathrow are "dying" because of a home buy-up scheme run by the airport operator BAA, an MP claims.

BAA stepped in to buy "unsellable" houses when plans for a third runway near the west London hub were backed by the previous government.

Labour's John McDonnell said despite the plans being scrapped many of these homes were standing empty leading to the "death of village life".

BAA said the homes were managed to "sustain and support community life".

When the Labour government gave its support for expansion BAA agreed to buy houses residents could not sell, if they wanted to move.

So far it has bought 266 homes with another eight sales going through.

'Continuing fear'

Plans for a third runway were scrapped by the coalition government when it came to power last year.

Mr McDonnell, who represents Hayes and Harlington, said many homeowners were still unable to sell up because of ongoing fears over a third runway.

He said people living in the villages of Sipson, Harmondsworth, Harlington, Cranford and Longford, among others, "live under continuing fear of a third runway (plan) coming back".

"BAA is now the largest homeowner in Sipson village and a significant homeowner in other Heathrow villages," Mr McDonnell said in a Westminster Hall debate.

"Many homes have just been left empty. We are told they are being refurbished with a view to being let, but the process is extremely slow."

Expansion opposed

He urged BAA to start selling or letting the properties to families.

A statement from the operator said: "Just as it is in the interests of people living and working in Sipson and surrounding villages that they are part of a vibrant community, so too is this in our interests as a major local landlord.

"We're prioritising lets to families and airport workers and we have a dedicated team committed to managing our properties in a way which sustains and supports local community life."

Mr McDonnell said he feared the properties were being retained because BAA was convinced it could change government policy.

He called on BAA to make a public statement that it "gives up its expansion ambitions" and for the main political parties to issue a joint declaration opposing a third runway.

In response, deputy Commons leader David Heath reiterated the government's opposition to expansion.

He said: "We don't want to see the third runway, that is clear, we want to see Heathrow develop in a way that is better rather than bigger."

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