Parish takes airport fight to High Court




Roddy Ashworth


East Anglian Daily Times


Takeley - Stansted blight

A PARISH council based near Stansted Airport is taking its fight for better homeowners' compensation to the European courts.

Takeley Parish Council claims that the airport's owner, BAA, should provide fairer treatment for local residents whose property values are affected by the expansion of the airport but do not qualify for its current compensation package.

But yesterday BAA said that the current scheme - the Homeowner Support Scheme - was voluntary, not statutory, and had already been unsuccessfully challenged in UK courts.

The move to take the case to Europe follows a refusal from UK courts to issue a protective costs order, which would have limited the parish council's liability for BAA and Government legal fees.

The decision not to restrict the parish's costs has led to its barristers advising there is little chance of it being able to proceed through the British courts in a cost-effective manner.

Takeley Parish Council claims that BAA is refusing to accept responsibility for the problem of generalised property blight in the area.

This allegation has been the subject of an ongoing legal challenge in the High Court over the last two years led by the council, with financial backing from a number of other local parish councils.

Most recently, the parish had initiated proceedings against an earlier High Court ruling that there was no legal force to the obligation placed upon BAA by the Government "to put in place a scheme to address the problem of generalised blight resulting from the runway proposal" as featured in the Air Transport White Paper of December 2003.

Richard Buxton, the solicitor advising Takeley Parish Council, said he believed applying to the European Court of Human Rights was an appropriate move given the circumstances.

"At heart this is a case that is based upon human rights considerations," he claimed.

"We believe that the Strasbourg court is likely to be interested, both for access to justice reasons and for the underlying issues.

"They may be further improved if such issues can be shown not simply to be a question of people seeking compensation for breaches of the various human rights provisions, but of the need to properly cost the environmental costs of projects like new runways."

But yesterday a BAA spokesman dismissed the new move, saying that the council's case had already been thrown out of the UK courts more than once.

"This is a desperate attempt to find someone who will agree with them. The High Court has agreed three times that this is the right scheme.

"We are confident the scheme is working properly and is benefiting those residents it was designed for.

"It is in advance of statutory compensation that would be given when the runway scheme comes into effect.

"It gives an index-linked price based on what the properties were worth in 2002 before the Government decided on Stansted for possible expansion.

"It is to help people who want to move and it is designed to keep the property market active and stop generalised blight."