"I've worked on projects at Heathrow and Stansted, but this is one of the most challenging jobs I've done – Terminal 5 is very large and very visual. It has a potentially huge impact on local residents in terms of nuisances like construction noise; my role is to ensure that it doesn't."

These are the words of Julie King, T5 community liaison manager. King's job is far from easy. A project that takes five-and-a-half years from start of construction to opening is going to upset a lot of people.

However, she estimates that only about 40% of the calls to T5's 24-hour community hotline are negative. Last summer, most of these concerned dust. To control the excess levels, heavy vehicles were ordered to slow down, and road sweepers and road washers were employed to keep the local villages clean.

  The five local communities - Stanwell, Stanwell Moor, Longford, Colnbrook and Poyle together contain about 10,000 residents. BAA wants to keep abreast of what these people are concerned about, and it wants to make sure that they understand how it is trying to meet those concerns. The T5 management therefore holds public exhibitions and attends residents' association meetings in each village every six weeks.

  King is more diligent; she visits the villages on a daily basis. She says: "My role is to maintain positive relationships throughout construction. The ethos of BAA is to be a good neighbour." Given how long it took T5 to overcome community objections at the public inquiry, that is understandable.

  The community liaison team tries to ensure that residents are not taken by surprise by new works. Any project that a resident might see or hear is detailed in a notification of works and sent to every member of the community. In March, for example, it issued a notification about a week of works to the A3044 service tunnel, even though the team thought it was unlikely to disturb residents.

  BAA also encourages its suppliers to engage with the five villages. Staff at Laing O'Rourke gave up money and time to resurface Stanwell Moor village hall's car park, and through the T5 sports and social charity, BAA has helped out bodies such as the Stanwell scouts and the Colnbrook under-eights football team.

  And it is not just current residents that T5 has to deal with. Settlement in the Heathrow area goes back to the early stone age, and BAA has to ensure that it is seen to be respectful of this history. Framework Archaeology, a unit set up specifically to work on BAA sites, is completing its work on Britain's largest excavation at T5. The unit has dug 80,000 holes, uncovered 20,000 artefacts, and will excavate the final part of the site by the end of the year.

To celebrate Framework Archaeology's findings, a series of seven lectures were held at the Heathrow Visitor Centre between October and December last year, drawing about 600 people.

  These lectures form part of T5's education programme, which is about to focus very strongly on local school children. The historical findings of the dig are about to be put into a video for schools, produced in association with the Museum of London. And as this can be used to meet geography key stages three and four in the national curriculum, it's not just construction skills that T5 is bringing to local youngsters.

Spreading the jam

BAA is aware of the criticism it could attract if it did not employ locals at T5. It also knows that employing people who live nearby takes the pressure off transport systems. So as soon as construction started in September 2002, it launched a local labour strategy. The Heathrow Employment Forum, which included staff from BAA, Laing O’Rourke, Mace and Hotchkiss Ductwork, as well as the Learning and Skills Council, held its inaugural meeting the same month.

Focusing on the five local boroughs of Hillingdon, Ealing, Hounslow, Spelthorne and Slough, it was evident that there was a mismatch between local people’s skills and the requirements of T5, and that recruitment was likely to be hampered by the high levels of employment in the area.

As a result, T5’s recruitment strategy has focused on 14-to-19 year olds. Last year, BAA launched the Heathrow construction training centre, which had 80 in its first intake. Joe Hardman, BAA’s economic development manager, estimates that 70% to 80% of this group are locals.

He says: “T5 has so far been a civils project. This programme, which focuses on skills such as bricklaying and carpentry, will be for later.” The training takes about 18 months, and includes on-site and project management elements. Younger teenagers benefit from other types of less intense training. In Spelthorne, for example, a mobile classroom visits five schools in the borough, and provides half a day’s teaching for up to 12 children at a time.

For older people, there is the option of registering their interest of working on the project by calling the T5 recruitment hotline. Between 15% and 20% of calls are from residents in the five boroughs. It also helps BAA match the local labour supply with the needs of its contractors.

Established firms get their chance to pitch for work at the annual “meet the buyers” event. Here, BAA’s procurement team and its main contractors are available to talk to local contractors. Last November, 300 local companies used the event to present themselves to the 13 major contractors working on the project.