Noisy Night Flights at Heathrow Can Carry on, Euro Judges Rule; RESIDENTS LIVING UNDER FLIGHT PATH PLEDGE TO KEEP FIGHTING

By Dougherty, Hugh; Fletcher, Victoria et al. | The Evening Standard (London, England), July 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

Noisy Night Flights at Heathrow Can Carry on, Euro Judges Rule; RESIDENTS LIVING UNDER FLIGHT PATH PLEDGE TO KEEP FIGHTING


Dougherty, Hugh, Fletcher, Victoria, Atik, Nilufer, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: HUGH DOUGHERTY;VICTORIA FLETCHER;NILUFER ATIK

ANTI-NOISE campaigners today lost a bid to ban night flights at Heathrow.

European judges ruled that takeoffs and landings in the early hours do not breach the human rights of residents under the airport's flight path.

But their judgment opened the way for a new round of cases in English courts by ruling that campaigners had not been given adequate access to justice here.

The government victory comes at the end of a 10-year legal battle by the Heathrow Area Campaign Against Noise (Hacan).

Eight members went to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to claim that their right to "peaceful enjoyment of their own homes" had been breached by sleepless nights caused by the noise from planes.

Their claim was dismissed by 17 European judges on a 12-5 majority, clearing the way for the current average of 16 takeoffs and landings every night at Heathrow to continue - as well as up to 43 at Gatwick and 22 at Stansted.

The Government had argued that a night flight ban would damage Britain's economy so much that it was entitled to breach the rights of 500,000 people living under the Heathrow flight path.

The key to the ruling was that night flights had not affected the price of homes in the area. This meant, the judges said, that the three per cent of locals who have their sleep disturbed by night flights, could move elsewhere.

But campaigners hailed the court's ruling that one of their other human rights, of access to the courts in Britain, had been breached.

They vowed to fight on in their bid to ban all night flights and pledged to use new European anti-noise directives which place strict limits on sound levels from low flying planes. Hacan chairman John Stewart said: "The court has not found entirely in our favour but there is enough there to battle on. …

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