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Homeowner Disturbed by Model Aircraft Wins

A homeowner who is tired of the noise of model aircraft flying over neighbouring farmland has persuaded the High Court that local planners erred in law when they granted a certificate of lawful use in respect of the activity.

The local authority had granted the certificate to a model club, allowing it to fly up to five aircraft during daylight hours, seven days a week. However, the Court found that planners had wrongly focused solely on a 100 square metre area, referred to as the ‘red line area’, and had thus failed to consider the correct ‘planning unit’.

Planning officers’ reports had ‘clearly excluded consideration of activities anywhere outside the red line area’ although there was no dispute that the models in fact strayed further afield. On the basis that the error went to the heart of the issue and had a significant impact on the decision-making process, the Court quashed the certificate and directed the local authority to consider the matter afresh.

The homeowner had also argued that the model club’s activities had ‘intensified’ to such an extent as to amount to a material change of use requiring planning permission. In addition, she submitted that the clearance of the farm during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001 and 2002 had interrupted the club’s use of the site. However, her challenge was upheld on the ‘planning unit’ ground alone.