Local residents of Schiphol after court ruling: ‘Finally recognition’

Violation of the European Convention on Human Rights

According to the court, people living near Schiphol have not been sufficiently protected against the noise pollution caused by aircraft for years. The state thus acted unlawfully. A group of local residents, united in the Foundation for the Right to Protection against Aircraft Nuisance (RBV), had initiated the substantive proceedings against the state. Jan Boomhouwer, spokesperson for the foundation, is pleased. ‘We are finally receiving recognition for the sad situation that we as local residents have been in for decades. The fact that residents are no longer allowed to be the final point in government decisions is a big difference from the past.’

Boomhouwer is also a member of the Civic Advisory Board Schiphol (CABS), the group that initiated the webinar on the Balanced Approach with civil servants of the ministry. The CABS will shortly consult with the ministry about the new situation.

The State is acting in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights by not offering adequate legal protection to residents around Schiphol and by systematically subordinating their interests to those of aviation. The District Court of The Hague determined this today in the substantive proceedings of the Foundation for the Right to Protection against Aircraft Nuisance against the State. The foundation was assisted by the lawyers Channa Samkalden and Elles ten Vergert.

Concrete prospect of improvement

The ruling is not only an important recognition of the position of local residents, but also offers a concrete prospect of improvement. The court ordered the State to reapply the applicable laws and regulations within 12 months. This means that the Air Traffic Decree (LVB) 2008 must again be taken into account. The State has calculated that on the basis of the LVB 2008, only 400,000 aircraft movements are permitted. This means a significant reduction for Schiphol, even more than the minister had announced in previous reduction plans. The court makes it clear that this recourse to the law does not require prior advice from the European Commission (‘Balanced Approach procedure’).

Moreover, falling back on the LVB 2008 is not enough. The State must also provide practical and effective legal protection for all local residents within 12 months. In addition, unlike what is currently done, the State must also look at local residents who are outside the contours established by the State and the latest insights into the relationship between noise and nuisance (‘representative BR relationships’) must be taken as a starting point.

The State has not yet completed these adjustments. Because the court makes it clear that the applicable regulations do not provide a ‘fair balance’ between the interests of local residents and other interests. The State has always prioritized the growth of Schiphol and then looked at what space was still ‘left’. That has to be different from now on. The court’s decision makes it clear that local residents can no longer be the closing party.

The judgment is provisionally enforceable; the State will therefore have to start implementation regardless of any appeal.

For those who want to study the original statement, here is the link