The drive for fair treatment for people whose homes have been blighted by the prospect of major airport expansion at Stansted will be given a welcome boost in Parliament this week.
The mounting political pressure to compel BAA to be forced by law to do the decent thing by the community and comprehensively address the issue of blight will be focused on an amendment to be tabled on the Civil Aviation Bill which enters Grand Committee stage in the House of Lords on Monday (5 December). The amendment is designed to ensure that all homeowners affected by generalised blight would be left no worse off than if airport expansion plans had never been announced.
The news comes as the community, led by Takeley Parish Council and its Chairman Trevor Allen, gears up to appear in the High Court to renew the claim for Judicial Review of BAA's Home Owner Support Scheme. Takeley's legal challenge is backed by villages including Broxted, Duton Hill, Great and Little Easton, Great and Little Hallingbury, Hatfield Broad Oak and Tilty which are all severely blighted by BAA's plans. The request for the claim to be allowed to proceed will be considered at a Permission Hearing scheduled for 13 December at the Royal Courts of Justice.
As it stands, the Air Transport White Paper calls on the airport operator to put in place a voluntary rather than a statutory scheme to address the problem resulting from its runway proposal. However, BAA has produced a woefully inadequate response applicable to just 500 homes in the immediate vicinity of the airport. Even then, those few who qualify are required to bear the first 15% of any property devaluation themselves and to meet their own relocation costs. A more realistic estimate of the number of homes affected is 12,000, largely across the southern half of Uttlesford according to analysis of Land Registry statistics which also reveal that the overall impact upon home values in the District has been around £600 million.
The objective of Takeley legal action is to force BAA to replace the existing HOSS with a scheme which properly fulfils the requirements of the White Paper by offering protection to all those affected by generalised blight and not merely a select few whose homes are sited within an arbitrarily applied noise contour with no reference to the reality of the suffering being encountered.
The arguments to be presented by the barristers acting for the parish council will focus on the failure of the Government to act in accordance with its obligations under the Arhuus Convention by endorsing the HOSS when it clearly fails to address the full extent of generalised blight (as required by the White Paper) which expansion proposals have caused. It is incompatible with the Secretary of State's duty for him to support the construction of a new runway while endorsing or validating a scheme which fails to provide adequate protection to those affected, say the claimants.
Takeley Parish Council is also seeking a Protective Costs Order to limit the community's exposure to the costs being sought by BAA which have already been ruled by the Court as "disproportionate" and "grossly excessive" and to limit future costs in the event of permission being granted for Judicial Review to enable the Parish Council and its partners to budget in advance for a fixed exposure to costs.
Commenting on BAA's attempts to evade its duty to the community and the lack of political will on the part of the Government to safeguard the position of those affected by expansion plans, Takeley Parish Council Chairman Trevor Allen said: "The dragnet is tightening on BAA as its mean-spirited approach towards the community is revealed. Its attempt to shirk its responsibilities to ordinary families by trying to pull off an airport expansion programme on the cheap further undermines BAA's reputation and exposes its blatant disregard for the community in which it operates."
Regarding BAA's efforts to outprice the community from the legal system by claiming excessively high costs, Trevor Allen added: "BAA's attempts to kill off this claim by putting it beyond the financial reach of the community are nothing more than scandalous and exposes the hypocrisy of its claims to the outside world about corporate responsibility."
NOTE TO EDITORS
Councillors from Takeley and other parishes will be travelling to London on Tuesday 13 December for the Permission Hearing in the High Court. A separate diary date giving further details will be issued shortly.
FURTHER INFORMATION ·
Trevor Allen, Chairman, Takeley Parish Council: 01279 870106 ·
David Fossett, Parish Clerk, Takeley Parish Council: M 07785 788684