The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome
No. 17 Summer 2010
The Runway Team
While packing away my big heap of files with the greatest of satisfaction, one begins to reflect on the trials and tribulations, the humour and banter of the Inquiry rather than the painful grind, frustration and anxiety we have all experienced at some time in the run up to this day after such a long crusade.
For me this long journey began back in 1996 in the fight against SAAC for T12 in the Structure Plan. Then the first application was submitted in 1999 supported by an Environmental Statement compiled by Gibb when Ben Verrall first joined our small team, which was subsequently appealed in 2001. It was at this time I enlisted Peter Kember's help with the Development Plan Policies in submitting the second application, which proved successful and permission for the All-Weather Runway was granted by Wellingborough Council in 2002.
Then came the legal challenge mounted against that permission, which was when our barrister, Michael Druce and solicitor, Henry Abraham, came aboard for the High Court hearings. Unfortunately these ended when the Council rolled-over and gave-up before a defence had been heard, which resulted in the All-Weather Runway permission being overturned and lost. A bitter blow to us all at that time after what had already seemed an eternity to get that far to only fall because of WBC's incompetence.
But we got up again and set about compiling a new rock solid case based on Justice Sullivan's comments at the Substantive hearing in the High Court with the added encouragement from WBC that the resultant application would be dealt with favourably.
Peter Moore then joined the Team to deal with noise, the issue regarded as the most important, alongside Ben dealing with all other ES issues. This work was finally finished and submitted in March 2004. But then the officers of Wellingborough Council decided to distance themselves from the application and appointed a Consultant, RPS, to deal with the matter for them.
It soon became evident that WBC & RPS had been successfully nobbled/bullied/harassed by STARE as their attitudes turned hostile. This suited RPS as it became evident they were on a fee generation exercise. Due to the lack of response we decided to appeal for non determination in March 2005 and a fourth application was submitted at the same time. As Henry Abraham had taken a year out, Beverley Firth, Oliver Bussell and James Ward of Mills & Reeve joined the Team to provide legal backup.
While all this was going on STARE was causing Wellingborough Council major headaches over the earthworks on the Aerodrome harassing them into issuing an enforcement notice, which we subsequently appealed and won with costs awarded against the Council for acting unreasonably.
Then Kingston QC and Maroons were appointed by RPS. In response our barrister Michael Druce advised me their fire power had to be matched, which resulted in Anthony Porten QC joining our Team. Then as landscape and drainage became important issues, Phillip Russel-Vick and Steve Dunsthorpe joined up.
After the long time planning and thorough preparation in the run up to the Public Inquiry, all of a sudden we were there in what was a hot hell-hole with no air-con called the Council's Chamber. During that first week all the preparation and hard work started to hold us in good stead and made it possible for very quick and detailed responses as different issues were thrown at us. After the Council's barrister and STARE's barrister had failed in their attempts to damage our evidence, came our turn and I watched our QC, Anthony Porten, quietly disarm his quarry while our barrister, Michael Druce unleashed his sharp and deadly logic, both armed with the bullets and shells provided by our supporting Team members aimed at WBC's and STARE's evidence. Slowly we watched all their expert witnesses being destroyed one by one to lesser or greater degrees. In between our small number of supporters who gave evidence far out classed the large number of objectors, which unfortunately included an ex-aviation tenant who Michael Druce swiftly dispatched with such skill.
We will all remember many comical moments, mainly at "Stefi's" (STARE's barrister) expense, the discussions and briefings in the "War Room", (a lecture room in the Shackleton Hangar) and our entertaining evening dinners at the Aviator. The Team spirit was quite tremendous, even passionate, with everyone pulling their full weight, "far and beyond the call of duty".
It has been a great privilege for me to have been part of such a special Team. In my experience rarely does such a strong Team get together with such spirit, co-operation and unified effort, but when it does happen it is a very special experience and hopefully an unbeatable combination.
To an outsider this must be an unbelievable story and one that would expect to have seen our resolve wane along the way given the ever higher hurdles thrown in our way, but no, thankfully we seemed to get ever stronger. I firmly believe this appeal decision, whether we win or lose, will create a precedent for GA in the UK and have either good or bad implications for sometime to come. Perhaps this fact may have been part of the catalyst that has driven our Team. I have to add my admiration of the Inspector's ability to absorb information and the depth of his knowledge which I hope can only be to our benefit. We cannot count our chickens but we certainly gave it our best shot and regardless of the result I am very proud to have taken part with such able people. My most sincere thanks goes to every one of the Runway Team and everyone else who has supported and helped me personally and Sywell Aerodrome throughout this very important fight for not only Sywell but GA generally in the UK.
Letter to the Team