Dennis v. Ministry of Defence — RAF Wittering

High Court says residents are not expected to put up with the ‘fearsome’ noise of Harrier training

Catherine and Darby Dennis are delighted that the High Court says that they are not expected just to put up with the ‘fearsome’ noise of Harrier training from RAF Wittering that blights their lives and home at Walcot Hall, Near Stamford. Walcot is right in line with the runway at Wittering, and Harriers doing circuit training and landing approaches create what the court said “manifestly amounts to a nuisance”.

The Dennis’ went to court after years of getting nowhere with polite complaints to the Ministry of Defence. They claimed that Harrier training ruins the enjoyment of their home and seriously devalues it. The Court has agreed that even if Harrier training must continue at Wittering in the public interest, they must be compensated.

Awarded damages

Contrary to Government claims of a right to create a nuisance because it has gone on for a long time, or because it is in the public interest, MrJustice Buckley said that “selected individuals should not bear the cost of the public benefit”. He has awarded damages based on nuisance, and infringement with human rights, for risk of loss of capital value, loss of business opportunities, and loss of amenity.

Mr and Mrs Dennis say the best news is that the court has warned the MoD that even if compensation is sufficient in relation to Harrier nuisance, they and other residents cannot be expected to put up with the “Future Carrier Borne Aircraft” that is due to replace Harriers in 2012 but may be more than twice as loud. “Maybe after a few more years of Harriers, we will have some relative peace and quiet”, Darby Dennis said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel not just for us, but for other people in similar situations”.

Real legal breakthrough

Richard Buxton, their solicitor, said “this is a real legal breakthrough. It shows that people do not just have to put up with government doing what it likes. The Ministry of Defence says it is convenient for them to operate from Wittering, so it makes lots of sense that they should pay for damage that they cause doing so. It is like the need to pay for fuel for their aeroplanes. It is a cost of doing business”.

Ken Jones of FPDSavills Lincoln, the Dennis’ property adviser, said “after all this time common sense has prevailed to bring some justice to the situation”.

The Court went out of its way to say that the Dennis’ brought the case very reluctantly and have the highest regard for the RAF and what it does.


Richard Buxton, solicitor: 01223 328933, Mobile 07900 413762.
Ken Jones, chartered surveyor: 01522 551100, Mobile 07967 555543.