MP's help for people blighted by TAG flightsBy Jack Sommers
September 10, 2009
FARNBOROUGH’S MP has appealed to people seeking compensation from the owners of Farnborough Airport for damaging their property prices to contact him.
Gerald Howarth has only received two letters on the matter, although hundreds of residents in Farnborough and Church Crookham say TAG’s flights over their homes has affected the prices of their homes.
They are currently seeking legal advice about whether TAG must compensate them and plan to take the matter to a land tribunal, if they are advised the company is liable.
TAG argues it does not have to pay because it was not “in possession” of the airfield when it built the civil aviation buildings there.
Mr Howarth said: “I’m not a lawyer but if there’s anything people feel I can do them for as their MP, I would like to hear from them.”
TAG initially said it would pay compensation under the Land Compensation Act, which states anyone whose property loses value due to ‘planning blight’ from a new development is entitled to compensation.
However, the company later reversed its stance, using a legal loophole to say it owed no compensation.
Its lawyers say TAG did not take over the airport until 2003, when a civil aviation licence was granted. This was after it built the terminal building, control tower and runway extension. At that time the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was still occupying the airfield, TAG argues.
Mr Howarth is not sure who was correct. He has consulted the terms of the Act in Parliament’s library and found a new or expanding airport “may or may not” qualify under its terms, he said.
Councillor Adrian Collett, the MP’s Lib Dem opponent at the next general election, was more damning and wrote Mr Howarth a letter calling TAG’s refusal to pay out “a gross injustice”.
Many residents moved in long before TAG acquired the airfield, when it was run by the MoD with flights only on weekdays and during day time.
Geoff Marks, chairman of the Farnborough Aerodrome Residents’ Association (FARA), said residents were still, after six years fighting the issue, seeking expert legal advice.
He said this was essential because if a land tribunal found in favour of TAG, the residents could be stuck with a huge bill.
“We can’t take any risk,” he said. “If we went to a tribunal and lost, we would be liable for around £250,000.”
He has been working with a surveyor who has monitored prices of properties beneath the flightpath and compared them with similar properties in Farnborough.
Mr Marks said the results showed prices had risen slower than other areas, leaving them around 15% lower than they would otherwise be.
He said: “Before 2003, TAG occupied the airfield in all but name. The MoD regulated flights but this was not occupation. Saying the MoD occupied the site then is like saying the Civil Aviation Authority occupies the site now.”
Residents have until December to decide whether to go to a land tribunal. This is when the six-year window to make claims expires.
Speaking shortly after the News & Mail revealed the ongoing struggle over compensation, the airport’s chief executive, Brandon O’Reilly, said compensation was a complex legal issue and TAG was abiding by the law.
“This work was done under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence lease, so this claim would not be valid,” he added.