LETTER: Legal action is an option

Spring is on its way but unfortunately for some Lavant residents this welcome event also brings serious apprehension about aircraft noise and misrouting.

The issues were comprehensively outlined by Lavant resident David Owgan in his letter in the January 28 issue. I have lived in the north of Lavant for 48 years and for most of that time have been untroubled by the activities of the airfield. But what a difference the last few years have brought. Once the recreational flying season starts in the spring we are subject to unprecedented levels of noise worthy of a war zone. I have frequently recorded noise levels of over 80 decibels. National surveys of airport noise consistently show that the same level of noise produces markedly differe nt reactions among nearby residents which explains why some are immune to this mayhem.

However, for some local residents the relentless noise is seriously debilitating. It is intolerable that for at least six months each year we are subject to this daily wall of noise which, as David Owgan has said, prevents people from sitting in their own gardens, whilst others are concerned for their own safety as aircraft fly too close or even over their properties in contravention of the agreed routings as shown on the airfield’s website.

These concerns have been referred to the local authorities. However Chichester District Council claim they have no power to take action on the grounds the Environmental Protection Act 1990 excludes aircraft noise. They appear to ignore the fact they are a party to the airfield’s planning permission given on October 7, 1987, which inter alia gives power to the local authorities to review the terms of the agreement, one of the stated objectives being to minimise the environmental impact including pollution by noise. In my opinion Chichester District Council need to stop creating artificial barriers to taking action and start monitoring the noise levels so an objective assessment of the level of noise can be made.

Regrettably, despite many approaches being made to them the Chichester District Council have never shown any willingness to engage purposefully with this issue.

The Civil Aviation Authority have been approached for help on several occasions but they did not respond. We have in effect been abandoned by those authorities which have the power to influence the situation and reduce the noise level. Since the authorities are not prepared to intervene it seems that the only choice left to the citizen is to take legal action by means of a class or group action. There have been successful cases against airfields on grounds which include excessive noise and in one instance (Dennis v Ministry of Defence) damages just short of one million pounds were awarded. If the local authorities are not prepared to follow the clear intention expressed in the planning permission to minimise the environmental impact of the airfield there is only one option left.

Paul Myatt

Lavant Down Road