LEGAL ACTION INITIATED OVER STANSTED EXPANSION BLIGHT
Press release issued by SSE on behalf of TAKELEY PARISH COUNCIL
16 November 2004
Takeley Parish Council has instructed solicitors to initiate legal action on behalf of local residents to address the absence of proper protection for local homeowners in relation to the property blight which has arisen as a consequence of the expansion proposals for Stansted Airport.
The White Paper, issued last December, required BAA to introduce a compensation scheme to address the issue of generalised blight. However, BAA's scheme is so narrowly defined that it would provide support for only around 500 properties, based on a 66 decibel noise contour, rather than the 12,000 homeowners which official Land Registry house price statistics and other sources demonstrate are affected by generalised blight.
In the case of Takeley, the 66 decibel contour (which is far higher than the ‘acceptable’ level of noise recognised by either the World Health Organisation or the Department for Transport) splits the Parish in half with next door neighbours either qualifying or being excluded, depending upon which side of the line they fall.
A letter has been sent by the Parish Council's solicitors, Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law, to the Secretary of State for Transport. This calls upon the Government to fulfil its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights and ensure that those who actually suffer blight are properly protected by an underwriting scheme. Such a scheme could be operated by the Government or by the airport developer on a statutory basis.
Said Richard Buxton: "Compensation is available for blight in relation to other types of development and this claim is just an extension of that rule. If something is done or proposed in the public interest, individuals should not have to suffer. Fortunately the Human Rights Act gives residents more teeth in staking their claim."
"In the White Paper," he continued, "the compensation schemes are said to be ‘voluntary’, but in reality BAA and the Government must be aware that the law will not let them get away with, in effect, depriving large numbers of people of substantial property values while airport proposals are developed over the next 30 years. The arbitrary 66 dB contour limit is obviously unacceptable."
In view of the urgency of the situation, with many local residents unable to sell their properties and unable to obtain any redress from BAA, Judicial Review proceedings will be initiated unless there is a satisfactory response from the Secretary of State within 14 days.
Takeley Parish Council Chairman Trevor Allen commented: "We have lost patience with BAA's stubborn and uncaring attitude towards our community following the publication of its derisory proposals for addressing the generalised blight problem. Many local families are currently in an unbearable position and feel trapped. Not only is BAA threatening massive airport expansion on our doorstep, it is also now preventing people from being able to sell their homes. It beggars belief that the Department for Transport seems quite content to stand back and allow BAA to behave in this way, trampling upon the lives and life savings of ordinary people."
He continued: "We have a duty to protect our local community and in view of the disregard shown by both BAA and the Department for Transport, we have no choice but to coordinate this action. The evidence is so clear and the circumstances so blatantly unfair that we have high hopes that the Human Rights Act will provide our community with proper protection. We seek no more than that."
It is expected that up to ten other local parish councils where residents are also affected by generalised blight arising from the expansion proposals for Stansted could join residents from Takeley in this action to assist in sharing the legal costs, but their involvement or financial support is not a prerequisite for the claim going forward. There is also the possibility that residents groups from airport communities around Birmingham, Heathrow and Luton may also support the action.
Takeley Parish Council is hosting a public meeting on Thursday 18 November to discuss the issue of generalised blight and the implications of the legal challenge (8pm, Silver Jubilee Hall). Speakers will include local MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, Richard Buxton and Brian Ross (Stop Stansted Expansion).
NOTE TO EDITORS
Some 540 homes in the Parish of Takeley fall outside any of the compensation schemes currently proposed by BAA. The number of homes in the parish total c1300, with a total population of c2500.
Richard Buxton of Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law led the Heathrow Night Noise case at the High Court and European Court in 2002/03 as well as the successful RAF Wittering property blight case against the Government. He is currently representing Stop Stansted Expansion and other parties from Luton and Heathrow in the Judicial Review challenge of the Air Transport White Paper, alongside claimants from five local authorities around Stansted. He is also currently involved in legal proceedings against the Department for Transport over the Night Noise consultation on behalf of the London Boroughs of Wandsworth and Richmond.
"Takeley Parish Council Renews Claim for Judicial Review of BAA's HOSS Compensation Scheme" - press release issued 14 March 2005 by Takeley Parish Council
"HOSS legal challenge thrown out by judge" - Dunmow Observer 10 March 2005
"BAA Slur Condemned by Takeley Parish Council" - press release issued 25 January 2005 by Takeley Parish Council
"BAA the Target of Legal Action Over Expansion Blight" - press release issued 2 January 2005 by Takeley Parish Council
Open letter to BAA on the revised scheme - sent 7 Oct 2004 by Takeley Parish Council
"BAA DISREGARDS COMPENSATION OBLIGATIONS" - press release issued 21 September 2004 by SSE
BAA's "Home Owner Support Scheme" - revised September 2004 (Acrobat ® format, 1.2 MB)
"New initiative launched at Stansted" - press release issued 21 September 2004 by BAA
Response to BAA's original consultation - issued 6 May 2004 by Takeley Parish Council