you don't have to worry about local authorities and the noise issue?
Geoff and Angie Bunyan realised a dream and for
a while had a utopian existence at the small 600 metre grass strip known as Hanley
William, near Tenbury Wells, Worcester. But it's now over, sunk by a co-ordinated campaign
by a group of four local 'antis'.
The story starts in 1992 when the Bunyans
purchased their farm. They were conventional farmers until 1994, when they decided one
area would make an ideal airfield. With unobstructed approaches and views of seven
counties on a clear day, the site offered space for a 600 metre grass strip. Visitors were
encouraged and were asked to make a donation on arrival, not to the airfield but to
national and local charities of their choice.
In time, the field earned a reputation for
being an appealing place to fly in to. Some visitors took the one mile stroll to the local
inns while others took the self-catering option and aviation picnics - even overnight
camping - became popular. Over the years hundreds of aircraft pilots and their passengers
enjoyed the idyllic setting. The local area benefited too - the military had previously
used the area for extensive low level transits. When the airfield was established the
military then co-operated by diverting traffic away from the field, resulting in an 80 per
cent drop in military movements. Local business gained from increased trade, charity
events, sponsored by the airfield, benefited, and even the local conservationists were
happy. They discovered rare and close to extinction species were thriving close to the
airstrip. Skylarks had colonised the fields and the local buzzard population increased in
All at the airfield was rosy until, on June 3
1998, four local residents organised a campaign against the airfield. The local authority
advised a planning application should be submitted. The Bunyans complied - an application
was submitted and subsequently refused. This is not unique: many small fields have
suffered similar refusals. Most appeal, some win, others lose and while the outcome may
not seem fair to those who lose, the affairs are handled by a court system seen to be
impartial and fair.
What is unique in the case of Hanley William is
the manner in which their particular case was dealt with and how the goalposts took on a
magical ability to move. The Bunyan's appeal was rejected on several points, but the one
that sealed their fate was noise.
The system of measuring noise for airfields was
established in 1990. Detection equipment is placed in all sensitive areas and on the
proposed flightpaths, then set up to record the background noise level over a one week
period. In addition the peak decibel values at the sensitive areas and average value are
recorded over a 16-hour period.
The data is fed into a computer program
commonly used for this type of investigation and the resultant noise map can be used to
determine the level of sound at any location in the area. Both the independent expert
witnesses employed by the action group and those engaged by the Bunyans agreed that, in
accordance with official planning guidance notes, a combination of the 16-hour average and
the maximum noise level should be used.
The results were submitted to the Inspector who
used them selectively, deciding he would submit the maximum noise level only as a basis
for his decision. This value, termed 'LAmax' has not been used in the last ten years for
any other airfield appeal - average values have always been taken into account.
This precedent, now set and beyond the reach of
a further appeal is likely to be applied to all future airfield planning applications -
existing small fields and major airports are not safe. Hanley was running happily for four
years until the action group started. What is to prevent a similar group forming at Little
Snoring, Exeter or Liverpool?
If LAmax is applied then these and all other
airfields must surely close. This eventuality is of secondary interest to Geoff Bunyan. He
suffered a heart attack (thankfully non-fatal) in the period between the appeal hearings.
But that and £50,000 legal fees have forced the Bunyans to withdraw from the contest.
Others will have to fight the battle of LAmax.
If you would like to know more about this
subject, the full history of the battle for Hanley Airstrip can be found at www.hwas.orangehome.co.uk.
Make sure you look at it - you could be using what you learn to defend your local