Flight paths 'harming Constable Country'

THE Civil Aviation Authority has been accused in the High Court of ruining the peace and tranquillity of Constable Country by allowing “dramatic and unexpected” changes to aircraft flight patterns.

THE Civil Aviation Authority has been accused in the High Court of ruining the peace and tranquillity of Constable Country by allowing “dramatic and unexpected” changes to aircraft flight patterns.

In a courtroom packed with members of the Dedham Vale Society, a judge heard claims yesterday that a new controlled airspace route which was supposed to be beneficial to the countryside painted by John Constable turned out to be nothing of the sort.

"There is clear evidence before the court that the change was dramatic, completely unexpected and totally different from the information given to interested parties in the consultation exercise,' John Steel QC told Mr Justice Newman.

In a hearing set for four days, the judge is being asked to quash the re-routing order, which came into effect in March last year.

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Mr Steel, appearing for residents headed by barrister Thomas Hill, said the issue was whether substantial environmental impacts caused to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and individual householders should be permitted "without due process'.

Mr Hill, a specialist in planning and environmental law, lives with his family at Bentley, near Ipswich.

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His home is between the two AONBs at the centre of the case - Dedham Vale in north Essex and Suffolk, and the rivers Stour and Orwell.

In a legal challenge backed by the 800-strong Dedham Vale Society, he says his family and thousands of others became victims of noise and visual intrusion after changes were made to the use of air space over East Anglia by aircraft using Stansted airport.

Mr Hill said in a witness statement that his home was unaffected by aircraft noise before the dramatic changes which had led to a serious loss of enjoyment in living in the area.

He said that, during consultations with local people, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) failed to disclose the changes would mean an increase in overflying of the area.

As a result, his right to respect for his family, home and private life under the European Convention on Human Rights was being infringed.

According to other written evidence submitted to the court, at least one local resident has taken to wearing ear plugs in bed because of the noise.

Mr Steel said it was the Government's aim to protect the most valued landscapes. Public bodies, including the CAA, had a statutory duty to have regard to the conservation and enhancement of AONBs.

He said Mr Hill, surprised by the sudden changes in overflying aircraft noise, made inquiries of his local councils, the CAA and National Air Traffic Services (Nats), which manages airspace use. But no satisfactory explanation was given.

"Neither the CAA nor Nats have at any time accepted any error of law or fault in the consultation exercise or any part of the airspace change process, nor has either of them at any time taken any proactive steps to seek to cause the unforeseen detrimental effects on Dedham Vale and Stour and Orwell AONBs to be mitigated or avoided,' said Mr Steel.

The hearing was adjourned until today .

n Homeowners near Stansted airport failed yesterday in a High Court bid to enlarge the compensation scheme for properties blighted by a planned second runway.

Takeley Parish Council led the residents' application for a judicial review of the proposed "woefully inadequate" compensation by the Essex airport.

The residents say the voluntary Home Owners Support Scheme, to be implemented by Stansted Airport Plc, applies to about 500 homes in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

They contend a more realistic estimate of the number of homes affected by the proposals for expansion is 12,000.

Richard Gordon QC, appearing for Takeley, argued the scheme wrongly relied on a "noise contour' to define the area of general blight and those entitled to compensation.

The QC told Mr Justice Lloyd Jones: "It doesn't follow if you lay down a noise contour all properties affected by generalised blight are in this noise contour.”

But the judge ruled the Takeley case "unarguable'. Refusing the council permission to seek a judicial review, he said Stansted Airport Plc had been entitled to use the noise contour as a boundary line for the scheme.

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