Sting takes on Ministry of Defence for the sake of a quiet life

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sting, the former schoolteacher, rock millionaire and rain forest protector, has switched his environmental campaigning skills to a cause much closer to home.

Sting, the former schoolteacher, rock millionaire and rain forest protector, has switched his environmental campaigning skills to a cause much closer to home.

The successful songwriter and other prominent residents who live near the famous Boscombe Down airfield in Wiltshire are taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence over plans to extend the site.

The proposal, which would increase the number of take-offs and landings at the airfield from 9,000 to 14,000 a year, has angered the musician, who feels the plans would affect his secluded country mansion in picturesque Wilsford-cum-Lake near the airfield's flight path.

City solicitors SJ Berwin, who are acting for Sting, his wife, Trudi Styler, and other noise protesters, are to claim in the High Court that the Crown's exemption from planning process is "unlawful". They issued proceedings yesterday and said they will take action under the new Human Rights Act if necessary.

Sting's office said he was on a world tour and unavailable for comment yesterday. However, the Earl of Chichester, a fellow protester, said: "If this development occurred, it would make life intolerable." The Earl lives with his wife, the Countess, at nearby Little Durnford Manor.

Boscombe Down is owned by the MoD's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera), which is to be partly privatised shortly. Theairfield is bidding to be the base for the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project. Four companies are competing for the public finance initiative (PFI) contract to provide and maintain the RAF with 24 new aircraft from 2004 to replace the current ageing fleet currently based at RAF Brize Norton.

A Dera spokeswoman said yesterday that 12 aircraft would be based at Boscombe Down at any one time involving some 1500 additional staff and requiring several new buildings. She added: "The bid is still in its early stages but we are doing it to help secure the economic future of the site and bring new jobs to the local economy." said a Dera spokeswoman.

If Dera won the bid the number of flights would increase significantly and there would be several night flights most nights. The plan has already met with local opposition who claim the increased noise would blight the area.

Comments