UK

Third Heathrow runway dooms village

The small village of Sipson will be razed to make way for Heathrow Airport's controversial third runway, which has been given the green light by the British Government.

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AFP - They cursed the government in the pubs of this tiny village Thursday, while pondering what had once been unthinkable: seeing their home wiped off the map for an airport runway.

"I'm gutted," Sipson resident Dereck Davies told AFP as he sipped a pint of lager in The Crown pub after the decision to expand nearby London Heathrow Airport was announced.

Surrounded by fields, Sipson, a small village of 700 largely semi-detached family houses on cul-de-sacs, has two pubs, a post office, a butcher's, an Indian restaurant, a hairdresser's and the Cherry Lane cemetery.

Everything is scheduled for demolition under the plans to build a third runway at the world's busiest international passenger airport.

"The government are a bunch of tossers," said Davies, a 39-year-old decorator. "They're doing what they want. It's like a communist government.

"There's talk of us getting between 3,000 and 15,000 pounds compensation. But by the time I've paid legal fees and everything else I'll be out of pocket. And the value of my home is going to plummet.

"I don't want to move out. It's a nice area to bring your kids up. My children have lost their home. Where am I meant to move to?"

Across the road, village butcher Gerald Storr heard the news on the radio.

"The people who make these decisions are liars and cowards," the 55-year-old told AFP as he carved a chunk of meat. "All these policies about reducing pollution, it makes a mockery of the government.

"They're going to mow the whole village down. This community's devastated."

Sipson village lies north of Heathrow, which is west of the British capital. Several houses have "No third runway" signs in the windows and gardens.

Behind the King William IV pub car park, environmentalists have bought a patch of land and sold it in 6,000 miniature pieces in a bid to hold up the government's compulsory purchases.

Inside the centuries-old pub, locals vented their anger at Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, who announced the decision in parliament.

"Boo!", "Liar!", "What a pillock", "Geoff Hoon, buffoon", You stupid man", people shouted as the minister appeared on the pub's television.

"I've been crying my eyes out all day," said barmaid Tracy Howard, 34.

"I'm absolutely devastated. For me, it's not about bricks and mortar, it's a heart matter. I have two kids, I love where I live. To be told we have to leave everything they've ever known is gutting.

"I've got to tell my nine-year-old daughter that everything we've done didn't work. I can take the setback, but a nine-year-old?"

Many locals are deeply upset about what could happen to Cherry Lane cemetery -- likely to become a dual carriageway road.

"I've got 11 family in that cemetery," said Crystal Gritt, 23. "They will move the graves but we've no idea where they're going to go. It's disgusting. They don't care.

"My sister is buried there, my nan in 2007 and my aunt the year before that. It's still raw. It's really upset and hurt my family.

"It's tough enough to have your house pulled down, without this too. It's caused a lot of heartache."

Anthony Way, leader of the Labour group on the local Hillingdon Council, was convinced the fight was not over.

"I'm sure there will be legal challenges," he told AFP as he drank a pint of bitter.

"It's a disgraceful decision. All governments go pandering to the whims of the aviation industry. Today, I'm ashamed to be associated with the Labour Party."

Sipson resident Bryan Sobey, 79, added: "This is a disgusting, outrageous decision. I feel absolute anger. Nobody's taken a blind bit of notice of what local people think. It's a social disaster.

"Where my house stands is where Terminal 6 is going to be."
 

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