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Airport: House prices 'would rise dramatically' in Medway but thousands would be blighted

Plane flies over house in Faggs Road, Feltham. Picture courtesy Trinity Mirror Southern Ltd
Plane flies over house in Faggs Road, Feltham. Picture courtesy Trinity Mirror Southern Ltd

A plane flies low over a house in Feltham, near Heathrow Airport. (Picture courtesy Trinity Mirror Southern Ltd)

by Dan Bloom

House prices would rise dramatically if an airport was built – despite thousands of lives being ruined by noise and fumes.

That is according to a Medway estate agent who has helped scores of homeowners claim compensation over other developments.

Alan Machin owns half of Machin Lane in Rochester High Street, which helped Borstal residents win compensation when the M2 was widened in 2000.

Many of them gained back 100% of their home’s value by serving “blight notices” on the government, even if they didn’t have to move out.

Alan Machin of Machin Lane estate agents in Rochester High Street
Alan Machin of Machin Lane estate agents in Rochester High Street

The 64-year-old (pictured right) said: “Let’s say the motorway was 30 metres away, you could say justifiably ‘you’ve made my property almost unsellable’, in which case you would get the full market value.”

The blight laws are not generous in terms of distance from the site, he said – but they are powerful.

Unlike compulsory purchases for the airport site itself, homeowners get to decide if their house has lost value, not the government.

One could argue the whole Hoo peninsula would be blighted. Yet Mr Machin said house prices outside the worst-affected zone could go up almost immediately, no matter how angry villagers were in Cliffe and Grain.

He said: “It’s very difficult to predict but you could take a model from Ebbsfleet. You will always get speculators rushing into an area, thinking in the long term it’s going to go up.”

But the legal difficulties would be the biggest of any UK project ever built.

If the airport was on land, including Lord Foster’s plan for Grain, the government would have to issue thousands of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to buy up the area immediately used for the runway and terminal.

Each order would have to pay for a property, the cost of moving, possible compensation and legal fees which can include a public inquiry.

They would include every house in Grain village, which has 1,700 residents, and could feature historic sites like St James’ Church in Cooling which inspired Charles Dickens.

Then there is Grain’s industry, worth well over £1.5 billion. The most costly to move could well be the Grain LNG gas terminal, which supplies a fifth of the nation’s natural gas.

Cover for Medway Messenger special airport supplement
Cover for Medway Messenger special airport supplement

Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless claims he’s been told it would cost £3 billion to move - and Grain LNG is showing no signs of upping sticks. It is expanding all the time and last year was linked up to a £500m new power plant.

Alan Sanderson, who was the plant manager from 2006 to 2008, claims it would take up to 3,000 people five years of constant work to move – and that’s only after a suitable new site was found.

Mr Machin's comments came as part of a 16-page special on airport plans which will be published in the Medway Messenger this Friday.

The supplement (pictured left) will dissect some of the biggest arguments for and against a Thames estuary airport.

There will also be interviews with key figures on both sides and exclusive details of one of the most controversial projects.

Only in the Medway Messenger - out Friday.

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