Theresa Villiers finds in favour of Wycombe Air Park Action Group to “specify” the airfield
4.1.2011 (Press release from WAPAG – WYCOMBE AIR PARK ACTION GROUP)
Theresa Villiers, Minister of State at the Department for Transport (DfT), has
agreed to take the first steps to ‘specify’ Wycombe Air Park (WAP), in response to the application made by Wycombe Air Park Action Group (WAPAG).
Specification will mean that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is granted additional
powers to control activity at the airfield. WAPAG has been fighting for several
years to persuade WAP’s management to change its operations to limit noise nuisance,
and to improve consultation with local residents.
The DfT’s decision marks an important milestone for the campaigners, who in early
2009 were forced by WAP’s intransigence to turn to the DfT for help.
Wycombe District Council (WDC) has formally supported WAPAG’s application.
The power to specify has never previously been used by the DfT, despite the fact
it has been around for nearly 30 years. Instead, the DfT has preferred to allow
airfields to regulate themselves, while taking into account the interests of local
residents. However, the DfT has now recognised that such self-regulation is simply
not working at WAP.
In her letter to WAPAG, Mrs Villiers wrote: “In my view, therefore, Government
intervention may be necessary to bring about a resolution of the issues. I am
persuaded by the length and determination of WAPAG’s campaign, by the support
of WDC for their specification request, and by the relatively high number of aircraft
movements and, especially, training flights at the Air Park which suggests that
noise from the activities of the Air Park would be likely to cause genuine concern”.
The DfT’s decision is a setback for both WAP’s management and the Joint Consultative
Committee (JCC), the liaison group originally set up to listen to and take heed
of the concerns of local people. Both were strongly opposed to WAPAG’s request
for specification and, in their submissions to the DfT, claimed that local consultation
was working well.
Commenting on the decision, Richard Wetenhall, speaking for WAPAG, said: “While
we are naturally delighted to have won this important first victory, things should
never have come to this. The fact that the DfT have agreed to step in and grant
us the UK’s first-ever specification order clearly vindicates WAPAG’s campaign
and shows the strength of its case. We have never denied the right of the Air
Park to exist. All we have ever asked is that they behave in a reasonable and
neighbourly way, and respect that their interests have to be balanced with those
of residents, as is required by Human Rights law. We now hope that the Air Park’s
management – and their owners – will come to their senses and agree to changes
which genuinely take account of the concerns of local residents.”;
Wycombe Air Park is one of the busiest airports in the country with around 100,000
aircraft movements per annum. This is more than almost all civilian airports
in the UK and behind only the UK’s largest international airports such as Heathrow
Note to Editors:
WAPAG is a private group representing the interests of residents affected by
the operations of Wycombe Air Park in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty. It has five principal aims:
− To secure the fitting of secondary silencers to aircraft operating out of
Wycombe Air Park, a move adopted by a number of other UK airfields in response
to residents’ concerns about noise
− To end circuit flight training from Wycombe Air Park at weekends and on Public
Holidays, again a practice adopted by a number of other airfields
− To put a stop to helicopter training at Wycombe Air Park. Helicopter training
and other helicopter flight activities have caused a sharp increase in helicopter
movements at Wycombe Air Park over the past several years
− To establish effective compliance monitoring and complaint handling procedures
− To reconstitute Wycombe Air Park’s Joint Consultative Committee so that it
can fulfil its proper purpose (as recommended by the DfT) as a liaison and consultation
body between airfield users, residents, and the local authority.
More about Wycombe Air Park
on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wycombe_Air_Park
The CAA website under Aerodrome Licensing – Background Information
Environmental issues associated with aerodrome licensing
The CAA has no direct legal duty to consider environmental issues in the licensing
process, nor direct powers to impose environmental restrictions on aerodrome licences.
The Secretary of State has powers under section 5 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982
to specify aerodromes for the purposes of that section. Such specification would
impose a duty on the CAA to have regard to adverse effects on the environment
and disturbance to the public in exercising its aerodrome licensing function.
To date, no such specification has been made.
Rural communities are complaining that their lives are being blighted by the
increasing number of flights at small airfields.
Comments by AirportWatch members:
This is a landmark decision by Theresa Villiers and should be of interest to all
those living in close proximity to a small air park.
As I read the wording of S5 of Act it applies to any airport/airfield of whatever
size. CAA are thus very concerned about the possible consequences and have been
doing their very best “Sir Hunmphrey” job on it.
The CAA claim that Sir Joseph Puilling recommended that S5 was removed.
which have been getting away with murder, may find their activities subject to
much more scrutiny and be required to carry out some “proper airport” activities
such as implement noise and track monitoring systems, keep proper records, operate
a proper Consultative Committee and permit community groups to become members,
CAA, in its “wisdom” recently legalised flying training operations may find themselves
ensnared by the edges of a regulatory web.
which produced non-mandatory guidelines, whose effectiveness they choose not to
monitor, are also found wanting by this decision.