Lakenheath school can be built near US airbase, Court of Appeal rules

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USAF F-15 fighter jet at RAF LakenheathImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
RAF Lakenheath is owned by the UK Ministry of Defence and leased to the United States Air Force and its 48th Fighter Wing of F-15 jets

A new school will be built under the flight path of USAF fighter jets, despite concerns about the impact of aircraft noise on pupils.

Suffolk County Council approved plans for a 420-place primary close to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk in 2018.

At the Court of Appeal, a resident claimed the council had not taken into account the effect of noise on children with "protected characteristics".

A judge agreed but said this "made no difference" to the council's decision.

Planning permission for the school, off Station Road in Lakenheath village, was granted by the council in October 2018, after 660 new homes were approved for the area.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
The school is planned for land off Station Road, which Lakenheath Parish Council argued was directly in the US airbase's flight path

But Lakenheath Parish Council claimed noise levels would exceed World Health Organisation guidelines and took the battle to the High Court.

Its judicial review challenge was rejected, but resident, David Gathercole, fought on in the Court of Appeal.

He said the council failed to consider the impact on children with hearing impairments, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

'Decisively outweighed'

Lord Justice Peter Coulson ruled the county council officer's report on the proposed school should have included a statement alerting councillors to their obligation when considering the impact of noise on children with protected characteristics, but its omission "made absolutely no difference" to the planning decision.

The report said noise impacts were "decisively outweighed by the benefits of a new village school" which would be fitted with soundproofing measures and would provide places for children from the new homes.

The judge said "there is no site for a school in Lakenheath which would not be subject to aircraft noise".

"The problem of noise for all children, including those with protected characteristics, cannot therefore be wished away," he said.

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