READ: Heathrow respond to the HCEB's questions on the land referencing letters

If you live in the Compulsory Purchase Zone (CPZ) or the Wider Property Offer Zone (WPOZ), you have probably received a land referencing letter from Heathrow Airport.

Last month, we held a Residents’ forum in Colnbrook and these letters were raised as a concern by those who attended.

Some were concerned that the questions that were asked in the letters were premature given that the permission to build a third runway has yet to be granted. They also felt that a number of unnecessary questions were being asked and were worried about how much of their data would enter the public domain thereby exposing them to unwanted marketing and unsolicited approaches from third parties. They were also concerned that they would be asked again for the same information should it become out of date.

We wrote to Heathrow Airport to put those questions to them directly. Here are their answers:

Q.1. Residents felt that a number of unnecessary questions were being asked.

Section 44 of the Planning Act 2008 requires an applicant to make "diligent enquiries" to establish who has an interest in the land. Some of the information is available from publicly available sources (such as the Land Registry). However, certain interests can only be confirmed by contacting residents and businesses through the land referencing process. The Land Interest Questionnaire has been designed to elicit only the information that Heathrow requires in order to comply with its statutory obligations to identify people and organisations with a legal interest in property or land that may be affected by the proposed expansion project.

The questionnaire is designed to ask the fewest questions necessary to help us ensure Heathrow’s obligations under the Planning Act are met.

Q.2 Residents were worried about how much of their data would enter the public domain thereby exposing them to unwanted marketing and unsolicited approaches from third parties. These residents were concerned that the information collected goes into a public document called the Book of Reference and that the information that will be available will be more than is included in the electoral register.

The record of a person’s interest in property or land will be published in the Book of Reference. We have a legal duty to make the Book of Reference available for inspection by the public pursuant to s56(6) of the Planning Act 2008 and Regulations 8 and 9 of The Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009. It is also submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and they may decide to publish the Book of Reference on their website. The Book of Reference is required by law to include the name and address of the person or company which has an interest in the land or property and the nature of the interest (Regulation 7 of The Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009. The Book of Reference will not include telephone numbers or email addresses of anyone listed. The electoral register does not include details of a person’s interest in land or property.

Examples of Books of Reference and the information included in them are available on the Planning Inspectorate’s website at https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/ in relation to submitted DCO applications.

Q.3 Residents were worried that they would be asked again for the same information should it become out of date.

Heathrow has a responsibility to ensure the information it holds on interests in land and property is up to date throughout the process and will need to contact residents and businesses periodically to confirm information is unchanged or to record any changes.

The information will be reconfirmed before Heathrow’s statutory consultation to ensure the information held remains accurate. This will be used to issue consultation letters, notifying all interested parties of the statutory consultation periods and how to have their say on the proposed scheme.

Closer to the submission of the DCO application, our Land Referencing service providers will issue requests for confirmation to all people and organisations understood to have a legal interest in land or property that may be affected by the proposed Expansion project. This is to ensure that the information is accurate for inclusion in the Book of Reference and that those who are required to, receive a formal notification that our application for planning permission has been accepted for review so that interests can be represented in the planning examination process.

Where Land Interest Questionnaires are not responded to, our land referencing service providers will follow up by phone, email and, where unable to make contact may visit the property to confirm receipt of the questionnaire and to provide support in completion, to ensure there is as accurate a record as possible for the planning process.

Q.4 Residents were also concerned that information that had been provided to Heathrow in the past was now being used for the proposed 3rd runway even though that data was not collected for this purpose.

In respect of Land Referencing, information collected by Heathrow as part of the land referencing exercise between January 2017 and April 2017 was for the purposes of the Heathrow expansion project. This was explained to residents at the time, including in the letter from Heathrow dated 3 January 2017. However, if the concerns raised relate to other information that has been provided to Heathrow, please let us know.

Q.5 What is the purpose of collecting the information at this stage of the process?

Heathrow is required to carry out the land referencing exercise at this stage in the DCO process. We have a statutory obligation pursuant to s42 of the Planning Act 2008 to consult with the people and organisations listed in s44 of the Planning Act 2008 prior to making an application for the DCO. This includes consulting with those people and organisations that have a legal interest in property or land that may be affected by our proposed expansion plans. This statutory consultation must happen before the DCO application is made so that any representations made by people or organisations with an interest in the land can be taken into account in the DCO application.

Q.6 What will the information provided by residents be used for?

In our Land Referencing Guidance Sheet we set out that the information will be used to fulfil our statutory obligations in connection with the expansion project, including to contact residents and organisations keeping them informed of our plans for the proposed expansion of Heathrow, and also to engage further in connection with developing and progressing those plans.

As well as contacting residents about our consultations on the proposed project, and notifying them when the DCO application has been accepted for review by the Planning Inspectorate, we may engage with residents on other aspects of the proposed expansion of the airport. For example, providing project updates summarising progress, requests to access land or properties to carry out environmental surveys, information about Heathrow’s compensation schemes and discussions about purchase of properties. Where land or property is required for the proposed development, Heathrow will seek to acquire that land by voluntary purchase wherever practicable and it is important that Heathrow can identify and engage with those residents and business owners in respect of this.

A limited amount of information will be used by Heathrow to produce statutory documents that are required by law. This includes a Book of Reference, which is submitted as part of the DCO application and will be a publicly available document. If residents provide us with their mortgage reference then this will be shared with the lender or mortgagee to help them to check their details when we send them the consultation information or statutory notices.

Q.7 How will the information be shared with any third parties?

Heathrow will use information collected in line with all applicable laws concerning the protection of personal data, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018. Heathrow recognises its role as Data Controller and is committed to protecting all personal information collected in the course of the land referencing process.

The information will be processed by our Land Referencing service providers and held on Heathrow’s behalf, in secure databases. WSP UK Limited is currently carrying out the Land Referencing and is accredited to ISO27001, the international information security standard and all data is stored in its secure databases.

Apart from the information published in the Book of Reference, we will keep information we receive from residents within Heathrow and our trusted third parties except where disclosure is required or permitted by law, for example to government bodies and law enforcement agencies or (in the case of your mortgage reference) to your lender or the mortgagee.

Information collected during the land referencing process, is primarily processed in the UK. WSP, one of Heathrow’s trusted third parties, may transfer data overseas to one of its group companies with the appropriate safeguards in place.

Q.8 Who are the third parties that are referred to in the Guidance?

As noted, the Land Referencing Guidance Sheet explains that Heathrow and trusted third parties will have access to the information. The information will be processed and held by our Land Referencing service providers, and shared with their subconsultants assisting them on this project (e.g. for printing purposes).

The information is required to fulfil certain statutory duties under the Planning Act 2008 and for other purposes in connection with the expansion project, and we will require other trusted suppliers to handle this information to support fulfilling those duties. This includes professional advisors and firms contracted to support the preparation and delivery of our DCO application. These firms are required to handle this information in accordance with data protection laws.

Q.9 Will the information be used in any way for marketing purposes?

Heathrow will not share the information with third parties for direct marketing purposes, or use it for the purposes of promoting goods or services other than as explained below (see in particular in relation to Heathrow’s compensation schemes).

Heathrow will use the information to fulfil its duties under the Planning Act 2008 and for other purposes in connection with the proposed airport expansion. Heathrow will contact residents and organisations on a range of matters relating to the proposed expansion of the airport, given our wish and also our duties to engage with those potentially affected.

This could range from updates on the progress of our plans, requests for access to carry out environmental surveys, notification of consultations, and information in respect of Heathrow’s compensation schemes (which might, for example, include residents and businesses being sent information about recommended or appointed suppliers or professional advisors in relation to these schemes).

Q.10 Will the information provided be included in any public documents including, but not limited to, a Book of Reference? If so, what is the purpose of such a document and why does it need to be public?

As set out in the Land Referencing Guidance Sheet: “The record of your interest in the property or land will be published in the Book of Reference. We have a legal duty to make the Book of Reference available for inspection by the public. It is also disclosed to the Planning Inspectorate and they may decide to publish the information.”

The Book of Reference is one of the documents that must accompany a DCO application that contains an application for compulsory acquisition powers. It is a record of those parties that have a legal interest in land affected by the project and any associated compulsory acquisition.

The DCO application process will include other legally required documents, including a Statement of Reasons and draft Development Consent Order, which will also be published. These documents will reference and reflect the information held in the Book of Reference. None of the details provided in these documents will go beyond the information contained in the Book of Reference.

Q.11 Were all the questions asked because Heathrow has a legal obligation to ask them?

Yes. The Land Interest Questionnaire has been designed to elicit only the information that Heathrow requires in order to comply with its statutory obligations to identify people and organisations with a legal interest in property or land that may be affected by the proposed expansion project.

Q.12 Will the information gathered at this early stage in the process be accurate at the point that it comes to be used in a number of months or years time? What plans are in place to ensure that the information gathered remains relevant?

Heathrow has a responsibility to ensure the information it holds on interests in land and property is up to date throughout the process and will need to contact residents and businesses periodically to confirm information is unchanged or to record any changes.

The information will be reconfirmed before Heathrow’s statutory consultation to ensure the information held remains accurate. This will be used to issue consultation letters, notifying all interested parties of the statutory consultation periods and how to have their say on the proposed scheme.

Closer to the submission of the DCO application, our Land Referencing service providers will issue requests for confirmation to all people and organisations understood to have a legal interest in land or property that may be affected by the proposed Expansion project. This is to ensure that the information is accurate for inclusion in the Book of Reference and that those who are required to, receive a formal notification that our application for planning permission has been accepted for review so that interests can be represented in the planning examination process.

Where Land Interest Questionnaires are not responded to, our land referencing service providers will follow up by phone, email and, where unable to make contact may visit the property to confirm receipt of the questionnaire and to provide support in completion, to ensure there is as accurate a record as possible for the planning process.

Q.13 Some residents have said that they do not wish to receive the Land Referencing letters or similar letters, would be possible to take this into account as part of your communication strategy.

As Heathrow has a statutory obligation to collect certain information about interests in land and property as part of the DCO process, it must contact residents in order to satisfy the legal requirements.

Heathrow is bound by the requirements of the Planning Act 2008 and must demonstrate that it has made diligent enquiries to obtain the necessary information and keep it up-to-date. Whilst residents may choose not to provide the information, Heathrow is nonetheless duty bound to demonstrate that it has made reasonable efforts to obtain it and maintain the accuracy of the

information throughout the process. Heathrow also has a duty to provide affected parties with certain documents, which the law directs us to provide, to make sure those affected are kept informed of the Expansion plans, regardless of whether the recipients wish to have them.

Click here to download the full correspondence (PDF)

If you have any questions about the above please email info@hceb.org.uk

Sam Matthews