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Model flying club faces legal challenge over use of field

High court ruling forces council to reconsider decision to allow Aldershot Model Club to fly model planes in an Old Basing field after a neighbour complained about the noise

Aldershot Model Club members at Blacklands Farm, Old Basing, where a neighbour is taking legal action against the club's use of the field

Model aircraft enthusiasts at Aldershot Model Club could be banned from flying their prized planes in a field they have used for 27 years because of a neighbour’s complaint.

The club members were granted a lawful use certificate in February last year by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council allowing them to fly up to five model aircraft at any one time at Blacklands Farm in Old Basing, between Basingstoke and Hook.

The decision was challenged by neighbour Alison Sellars who won a High Court ruling on Friday (November 29) forcing the council to re-think its decision to rubber stamp the aerial activity as lawful.

Ms Sellars claims that since she moved near to her nearby farm in August 2010 she has been directly affected by the environmental consequences, including noise, of model aircraft flying at the site.

The club’s members, of which there are around 110 from across the News & Mail area, have rented the land at the farm since August 1996.

Chairman Peter Carter said this was the only site used by the club and that there had been no previous complaints before the first one from Ms Sellars in June 2011. He added that members flying models was not the only activity that went on at the site.

The certificate from the council allows flying there during daylight hours, seven days a week, but Deputy Judge Mark Ockleton upheld Ms Sellars’ claim that the council was wrong to grant it.

He found the authority had failed in its definition of the area the planes could be flown within and that this identification was an "essential part" of the decision.

“In those circumstances the remedy is quashing of the decision under challenge and remittal of the application to the defendant for it to make a lawful decision,” he said.

As part of Ms Sellars’ challenge, she claimed that the use of the land had intensified so as to constitute a material change of use without planning permission, however the judge said that the evidence before the council’s planning committee was "wholly insufficient" to support that claim.

Separate legal action has also been taken by Ms Sellars against the club over excessive noise, and Mr Carter is awaiting a summons to magistrates’ court to answer the charge following a preliminary hearing in Southampton in October.

The club, which is attended mainly by elderly men but also has younger and female members on its books, is being represented by a law firm provided by the Model Flying Association.

Aldershot Model Club committee member Graham Legg, 59, said: “Both these events are unprecedented in the modelling world nationwide.

"If we lose this case then every club in the country will be in jeopardy as it will set a precedent.

"We’re just a members club, not a private firm, so any action is being taken against individuals which is rather distressing for some.”

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