Residents could get cash in return for third runway


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The Independent Online

Residents under Heathrow's flight-path could be offered thousands of pounds in compensation if a future government gives the go-ahead to the construction of a third runway at Europe's busiest airport.

The move is being promoted as a possible way of defusing anger in those communities worst affected by noise following any expansion of Heathrow.

The Coalition Agreement has ruled out giving approval to a third runway during this parliament and the Conservatives opposed the move at the last election. But some senior party figures, including the Chancellor, George Osborne, are pressing for a change of policy in an attempt to boost airport capacity in the South-east of England. The most likely option is that the issue will be left open in the next Tory manifesto.

The Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs, which has close links with Mr Osborne, has called for a compensation scheme as a way of bringing round families affected by the extra noise. BAA, which operates Heathrow and other airports, said it was keeping an open mind on the different options available for expanding capacity, stressing the decision was for political leaders.

"The big constraint on Heathrow is noise," Colin Matthews, the chief executive of BAA, told the Financial Times.

"People will debate the relative merits of providing people with double-glazing versus providing financial compensation."

Supporters of the compensation move – which would be funded by BAA's increased profits – believe it would blunt local campaigns against airport expansion.

Under this latest proposal, the payouts could be particularly generous: the Free Enterprise group has suggested payments of up to £40,000 for the most affected.

A range of compensation schemes are already available to families affected by excessive airport noise, including cash towards relocation costs and free secondary glazing for windows.