Southend Airport to compensate homeowners over noise

The Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has ordered London Southend Airport to pay compensation for the diminished value of homes hit by its noise.

Payments ranging from £4,000 to £17,000 should be made in the case of nine homes that acted as exemplar cases for dozens of others in the area, it concluded, though a claim for one property was dismissed.

In 2012, an extension to the airport’s runway was opened, increasing its length from 1.6km to almost 2km. This permitted low-cost commercial airlines to operate “much larger aircraft than had previously flown from it”, says the ruling, handed down on 11 March.

More than a thousand complaints over noise were made the following year.

In 2019, 190 current and former owners of homes around the airport lodged claims for compensation under Part 1 of the Land Compensation Act 1973. This confers a right to be compensated if an interest in land is depreciated by physical factors, such as noise and vibration, caused by the use of public works.

According to the tribunal, in the 1960s and 70s, the airport had “a sizeable passenger operation”, with 683,000 passengers at peak. But custom steadily declined in favour of other airports, falling to less than 10,000 passengers a year from 1993 to 2006. Much of its activity was non-commercial at the time.

But the new markets opened up by the extension encouraged greater use, with aircraft movements rising by about 10% between 2012 and 2014, with commercial movements accounting for 45% of the total. Passenger numbers hit 1.1m that year, rising to 1.5m in 2018.

Noise rose accordingly. In 2011, levels of noise at night were above the World Health Organisation’s current guidelines for Europe for seven of the ten lead properties. All were either at or considerably above it by 2016. Daytime noise increased in a similar fashion.

“The general impression created by the daytime noise data is that between 2011 and 2014 what was already quite a noisy environment got noisier,” said the tribunal, which was led by deputy chamber president Martin Rodger QC and chartered surveyor Andrew Trott.

The claimants claimed compensation between £32,200 and £60,100, while the defendant denied that the properties’ value had been diminished at all.

While the tribunal did not agree that those amounts should be awarded, it said that, “We are satisfied from the evidence of fact, the expert noise evidence and our site inspection that the use of the runway extension has caused depreciation in the value of most of the lead properties due to noise.”

Where the combined increase in day and night-time noise is above 10 decibels – the largest being 12 decibels – it concluded that the “maximum level of growth foregone” is 8.5%. This would fall to by one percentage point for each dB below 10dB, until a level of 3dB. “Any smaller increase we consider to be minimal and not compensatable,” the tribunal ruled. This left one owner uncompensated.

The airport did not respond to a request for comment.

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