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Hanley William
Reproduced by kind permission from an original article in Flyer magazine by David Bruford Think you don't have to worry about local authorities and the noise issue?

Think again.

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 number.

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 airfield.

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sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Hanley Web Site

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Echoes...
Shortly after the Hanley decision was announced, another farm strip at Clutton Hill went to public inquiry. Two themes that played a significant part in the decision that has resulted in the loss of Hanley also played a key part in the Clutton Hill decision.

Objectors to Clutton Hill argued that little weight should be allowed to 16 hour average noise figures. Reference was made to the Hanley decision rejecting this method of measuring noise in favour of LAmax. They also stated that the LAmax figures for Clutton Hill were in fact higher than at Hanley.

Objectors also argued that any conditions to limit operations at the strip would be unenforceable, an echo of the decision to this effect made at Hanley.

Whilst the Clutton Inspector agreed with his colleague on the Hanley enquiry and accepted the use of LAmax as the indicator of noise levels, he did not accept that conditions restricting the number of movements would be unenforceable. In fact, his decision in favour of the air strip was based significantly on the fact that such conditions would be enforced.

sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Clutton Hill

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