Aircraft noise activists in the UK are welcoming a judicial award of $1.42 million compensation to a country landowner for noise pollution. The award by an English High Court was made against the Ministry of Defence, although the activists see it as a landmark judgment opening the way to similar action against civil airfield operators.
The RAF base at Wittering, in East Central England, has been an active military field since 1916 and now houses the operational training unit for the Harrier V/STOL fighter bomber. The landowner, Darby Dennis, who lives at 17th-century Walcot Hall, started the legal action in 1996, initially claiming $10.5 million compensation for the inability to hire out the hall for film and fashion shoots. Used by the USAAF as an operations base during World War II, the hall is about two miles from Wittering. Dennis initially sought legal judgment that would force the RAF to cease all training, but the judge ruled that the base would remain open.
John Stewart, chairman of activist group Hacon Clearskies, said, “Although the case concerns the noise from military jets, nevertheless it gives hope to the thousands of people who are having to put up with an increasing number of civil jets, or who will do so in the future.” He added that the judgment opens the way for more people to take up noise issues, not only against the military but also at non-military airfields.