In what was described as “an attempt to buy off local opposition to a third runway”, last May it was announced that London Heathrow Airport had put together a compensation package extending to some £550m (US$825m) for the purchase of property blighted by the new runway, that sum to also include £250 million (US$375m) for the sound insulation of homes and schools nearby. That was seen as quite a breakthrough considering that up until then the airport had only spent £30m (US$45m) on sound insulation on properties over the previous 20 years.
This week, Heathrow has now released further and more comprehensive details of their sound insulation package in order to garner further support for its third runway becoming the preferred option for flight capacity expansion for London, as opposed to an alternative Heathrow option, a second runway at Stanstead, or the revival of plans for a Thames estuary airport, the ‘brainchild’ of London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson.
The new details include a substantial increase in funds for sound insulation with the acceptance of a new zone based on a 55 decibel noise contour which is the preferred measure of noise used both by the European Union and London’s mayor. This would bring the policy more in line with other major European airports, but will involve a £450m (US$67.5m) increase in the sound insulation compensation budget alone.
The scheme in fact will cover two proposed zones, and those properties which will be liable for compensation are not solely restricted to those affected the new runway, but the existing runways too. This would mean up to 160,000 houses between Windsor and Richmond would become eligible, more than 35,000 in Hounslow, and all homes in the villages of Wraysbury, Datchet, Sipson, Harmondsworth, Harlington, Colnbrook, Brands Hill and Stanwell Moor. A third party assessment would be carried out to estimate the requirements of each home within the eligible zones, free of charge to all homeowners.