Farnborough Airport has scrapped controversial plans that would have allowed it to sideline “vexatious complaints” by members of the public against Europe’s premier private jet facility.
In a now-withdrawn planning application to Rushmoor Borough Council, Farnborough Airport Limited had sought consent to amend its ‘complaints procedure charter’, allowing it to effectively sideline serial complainers on issues such as airport noise, flight paths and air pollution.
The complaints procedure charter is a legal agreement forming part of the 2011 planning consent that saw the airport increase its aviation movements from 28,000 to 50,000 per year.
The original planning agreement states: “A record of all complaints received regarding the site shall be kept including the name, address, contact details of the complainant and detail of the complaint regarding noise, air quality, odour, track keeping (including varying from preferred noise routes) and alleged vortex damage”.
It continued: “A record shall also be kept of the response in terms of its timing details as to the cause(s) of the complaint and the action taken if any to remedy the situation.”
However, Farnborough Airport Ltd applied to keep only a record of complaints, and responses, “save for those complaints deemed to be vexatious complaints.”
The airport defines ‘vexatious’ complaints as:
- Submission of complaints with very high volume and frequency of correspondence.
- Requests for information the complainant has already seen, or clear intention to reopen issues that have already been considered.
- Where complying with the request would impose significant burden on the airport in terms of time resources, and negatively impact our ability to provide responses to others.
- Where the complaint lacks any serious purpose or value.
If its proposed changes had been allowed to proceed, it would have allowed the airport to pass the buck of responding to any ‘vexatious’ complaints to Rushmoor Borough Council.
The airport added the reasons for the proposed changes were to “reflect changes in technology, data protection, and for complaints recording to introduce a new provision for repeat ‘vexatious complaints’.”
Its application added: “The changes will ensure that time and resources are deployed only to deal with legitimate complaints that raise matters of relevance to the provisions of the planning obligations and are designed to prevent deliberate and vexatious undermining of the complaint management process.”
Farnborough’s plans were, however, withdrawn on Wednesday last week before being scrutinised in public by council planning officers and councillors.
It comes amid a concerted campaign by the newly-formed Farnborough Noise group, calling on the airport to widen the scope of its Post Implementation Review of airspace changes to fully consider the impact of increased overflights on communities.