4th November 2006

BAA to face challenge in European Court of Human Rights

Press Release issued on behalf of Takeley Parish Council

Takeley Parish Council is taking its claim for fairer treatment for local residents blighted by BAA’s airport expansion proposals but excluded from existing compensation schemes to the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR).

The move follows protracted discussions with the High Court and, latterly, the Court of Appeal which have resulted in an effective stalemate over permission to proceed to full judicial review of BAA’s plans for restricted compensation through its narrowly drawn Homeowner Support Scheme (HOSS).

Takeley’s access to justice has been severely impeded by a refusal from the courts to issue a protective costs order which would have limited the parish council’s exposure to BAA and Government fees.  Without such an order and in the face of exorbitant fees from the airport developer’s counsel, the financial risks to the parish would have been too great.

Richard Gordon QC and Sarah Ford of Brick Court Chambers, barristers acting for the parish, recommended a switch to the ECtHR in the absence of any likelihood that the parish could put its case to the UK courts in a cost effective manner.

The move will add to the pressures on BAA and its new owners Ferrovial, reinforcing the community’s continued hostility to airport expansion plans. It comes just weeks before Uttlesford District Council’s decision on BAA’s application for unlimited passenger use and more aircraft movements on the single runway, as well as the imminent announcement on BAA’s intentions regarding the siting of its proposed second runway, both due before the end of November.

BAA’s refusal to accept responsibility for the problem of generalised blight has been the subject of an ongoing legal challenge in the High Court over the last two years led by Takeley Parish 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 required by the Air Transport White Paper of December 2003 (para 11.41).  In the absence of the Protective Costs Order which was being sought to reduce potential liabilities on the part of the parish, this action has now been dropped in favour of taking the case forward in Strasbourg.

Richard Buxton, the solicitor advising Takeley Parish Council, commented: “At heart this is a case that is based upon human rights considerations.  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.”

Approaching the European Court of Human Rights will, say the parish council, provide more affordable access to justice without the potential for a substantial liability to costs through the UK system.

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