Stop Stansted Expansion prepares to launch legal proceedings against Stansted airport, over compensation delays
Stansted Airport faces legal action on behalf of thousands of local residents denied compensation over devaluation of their property caused by airport expansion. The cost to the airport could run to hundreds of millions of pounds. Stansted failed to meet a deadline (31st May) to make a public statement agreeing to introduce a compensation scheme for local residents after years of prevarication. Since 2002, Stansted has used the excuse that it has no legal obligation to pay compensation until it has completed everything listed in its 1999 Phase 2 planning consent. Completion of a small part of these works, the Echo Cul-de-Sac, has been repeatedly postponed – most recently until the mid-2020s – and has thus been branded the ‘golden rivet’ loophole. Stansted lawyers finally accepted this, but then immediately put forward a new excuse for rejecting compensation claims – that claims were now time-barred under the Limitation Act. This gave rise to withering criticism from the judge who remarked: “So, after years of telling people you can’t claim until the works are complete, you’re now saying Tee-Hee – you’re too late.” Due to Stansted stalling, SSE are now taking legal action, to safeguard the interests of local residents. SSE’s preparations for a legal challenge ,on the airport’s use of the Limitation Act, are underway. They have appointed and briefed its legal team, which includes two expert barristers and one of the country’s foremost planning solicitors.
SSE PREPARES TO LAUNCH LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST STANSTED AIRPORT
Airport uses new ploy to deny compensation after losing ‘golden rivet’ loophole
7.6.2016 (Stop Stansted Expansion press release)
Stansted Airport faces legal action on behalf of thousands of local residents denied compensation over devaluation of their property caused by airport expansion. The cost to the airport could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) announced the move after the airport failed to meet a deadline to make a public statement agreeing to introduce a compensation scheme for local residents after years of prevarication.
Since 2002, Stansted has used the excuse that it has no legal obligation to pay compensation until it has completed everything listed in its 1999 Phase 2 planning consent. Completion of a small part of these works, the Echo Cul-de-Sac, has been repeatedly postponed – most recently until the mid-2020s – and has thus been branded the ‘golden rivet’ loophole.
However, it transpires that the airport was wrong to use the ‘golden rivet’ argument as an excuse for not paying compensation. Lawyers for Stansted Airport finally accepted this at a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice in March but they then immediately put forward a new excuse for rejecting compensation claims – arguing that claims were now time-barred under the Limitation Act. This gave rise to withering criticism from the judge who remarked:
you’re now saying Tee-Hee – you’re too late.”
Brian Ross, deputy chairman of SSE, who attended the hearing, commented: “It was clear from the expression on the judge’s face that he could hardly believe what he was hearing, and nor could I. Accordingly, SSE immediately asked for an urgent meeting with the airport managing director. That meeting took six weeks to arrange and when we eventually met it was obvious Stansted Airport was stalling over the ‘golden rivet’ issue and over its use of the Limitation Act to reject claims.”
SSE gave Stansted Airport an ultimatum of 31 May to make a public statement with a commitment to introduce a compensation scheme, failing which SSE would itself make a public statement and do all in its power to safeguard the interests of local residents, including legal action.
A few hours before the expiry of this SSE ultimatum, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) the owners of Stansted Airport contacted SSE offering a further meeting to discuss the matter. This offer was declined. SSE took the view that the issues should no longer be discussed behind closed doors. In a subsequent telephone conversation, MAG made some important concessions to SSE but still refused to make a public statement. SSE therefore decided to make its own statement having regard to the long history of prevarication and broken promises on this issue.
[SSE held a press conference on Friday, 10th June at 12 noon at the Stansted Hilton Hotel and revealed further details, including the legal action it intends to take, the legal team appointed, the postcode areas affected and the scale of the devaluation of local house prices.
See the presentation
SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “Compensation has never been part of SSE’s natural territory but in this case the airport’s behaviour is so reprehensible that we cannot stand idly by. It beggars belief that a publicly quoted UK company could act in such a manner. Enough is enough.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
SSE will this week be sending a briefing note to all of its members and on-line supporters. Local parish councils will also be briefed and SSE will be holding public meetings to explain the position more fully. Key local politicians and MPs have already been briefed by SSE.
SSE’s preparations for a legal challenge on the airport’s use of the Limitation Act are well underway. SSE has already appointed and briefed its legal team, which includes two expert barristers and one of the country’s foremost planning solicitors.
MAG is 35.5% owned by Manchester City Council, 29.5% owned by nine other councils in the Greater Manchester area and 35% owned by an Australian investment fund. As well as Manchester and Stansted, MAG also owns East Midlands and Bournemouth airports.
SSE has evidence showing that Stansted’s growth over the past 17 years (since 1999) has caused property devaluation over a wide area covering up to 15,000 local homes. The scale of the devaluation is over 20% for homes nearest the airport.
The potential cost of compensating residents is several hundred million pounds, which may explain why MAG was able to acquire the airport for such a relatively low price (£1.5bn).
Further information for potential claimants, including a downloadable compensation claim form will soon be made available on this.
BACKGROUND TO THE COMPENSATION STORY
This story begins in 1986, when Stansted Airport Ltd (STAL) obtained planning consent to expand to a throughput of 8 million passengers per annum (mppa). STAL acknowledged that this would adversely affect local house prices and, in accordance with its obligations under the 1973 Land Compensation Act, STAL agreed to compensate local homeowners for the resultant devaluation.
Local residents were invited to submit compensation claims and STAL (then owned by BAA) agreed to pay their legal and professional valuation costs. The first task was to establish where devaluation had taken place and agreement was soon reached on an area including most of the Hallingburys, the Broxted villages, Burton End Stansted, Birchanger, Hatfield Broad Oak, Hatfield Heath, Takeley, Elsenham and parts of Thaxted and Bishops Stortford.
Comparative valuations were carried out to arrive at a percentage devaluation (i.e. compensation payable) for each of those areas. Some 1,900 claims were submitted, two-thirds of which were successful.
All of the above related to Phase 1 of Stansted’s expansion. Subsequently, in April 1999, it was granted permission for Phase 2 of its expansion plan allowing it to grow from 8mppa to 15mppa. Within three months of that approval, Stansted had exceeded the 8mppa threshold and within three years it exceeded 15mppa. The airport has handled over 15mppa every year since 2002. Further planning applications have since been approved whereby Stansted now has a permitted throughput of 35mppa. This year it will handle about 25mppa.
However, local residents have only ever been compensated for an airport handling a maximum of 8mppa.
This injustice has arisen because, over the years, STAL has consistently advised local residents that compensation claims could and should not be submitted until completion of all of the works authorised by its Phase 2 planning permission. This was originally expected in 2001/02 but one small part of the approved development in the ‘Echo cul-de-sac’ has repeatedly been postponed.
The latest advice from STAL is that the Echo cul-de-sac (which has been dubbed as the ‘golden rivet’) is unlikely to be needed until the mid-2020s, some 25 years later than originally planned and 14 years after the airport surpassed the 15mppa threshold which, according to STAL’s 1999 planning application, could not be achieved without the Echo cul-de-sac development.
If STAL has its way, that injustice will now become staggeringly worse because instead of arguing that it’s too early for compensation claims to be submitted, STAL now says it’s too late to submit claims. STAL’s new position is that all Phase 2 works except the Echo works were completed by March 2007 and so claims could have been submitted one year afterwards, in March 2008, and the latest date for submitting compensation claims was six years after that – i.e. March 2014.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman ? 01799 520411; firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman ? 01279 814961; M 07850 937143; email@example.com
SSE Campaign Office ? firstname.lastname@example.org; www.stopstanstedexpansion.com
Stop Stansted Expansion sets out details of Stansted’s devious attempts to avoid compensation payments from 2000
Stop Stansted Expansion have catalogued the appalling deceit and prevarication used by Stansted Airport, in its attempts to avoid making compensation payments to people affected by airport’s expansion. Work on Phase 2 was started in 1999, to take the airport up to 15 million passengers per year, and claims should then have been possible. But Stansted insisted that no claims could be made until one of the taxiway piers, Echo, was completed. Each year, from 2004 to 2011 the date when the Echo stand’s completion date was pushed further and further back (partly as Stansted had a dramatic fall in passenger numbers in the recession). Finally this April Stansted’s lawyers said ” …1 March 2007 is a relevant date at least in respect of some of the works in paragraph 1.8..” In other words Stansted finally concedes that it had been wrong to use the ‘golden rivet’ ploy to avoid paying compensation. But now Stansted has a new ploy to avoid paying compensation, saying any claim had to be brought within 6 years. The Deputy President of the Lands Tribunal remarked: “So, after years of telling people you can’t claim until the works are complete, you’re now saying Tee-Hee – you’re too late?” Stop Stansted Expansion gave the airport until 31st May to make a public statement reversing this stance – or face a legal challenge. No satisfadtory response was received in time from owners, MAG.
Farmer at Stansted still awaiting compensation, due to airport loophole of not completing all work – to avoid paying
A farm owner who won £1 million from Stansted, because planes flying over his £2 million home slashed its value in half, is still waiting for the pay-out 17 years later. Patrick Streeter, whose home is about 1.5 km from the end of the runway, was awarded the sum in 1999 but claims Stansted are using a wily “legal loophole”, which says the money needs to be paid only once all work is finished on the airport. Because white lines have not been painted on a strip of airport apron, (presumably deliberately …) and a fuel pump has not been installed, Stansted has told Mr Streeter that he is not entitled to his pay-out yet. He says the constant din of planes makes the place unbearable to live in, and he believes it would be almost impossible to sell. Mr Streeter’s family home, a 13th century seven-bedroom farmhouse in Great Hallingbury, shakes so badly when planes take off that roof tiles are dislodged. “When we are sitting in the garden your coffee cup will wobble. The cargo planes are the worst.” The airport is legally obliged to pay people living around it compensation because of the detrimental impact of the noise. Mr Streeter is now considering suing the airport . A Stansted spokesman said: “We are aware of Mr Streeter’s application and the matter is being consulted by MAG (the airport’s owner).”