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Citizens against expansion of Narita Airport seek to improve organization

One of the land lots jointly owned by members of a citizens group opposed to the construction of Narita International Airport is pictured in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, in this June 2015 file photo. The roads on the left were built in a curved shape to avoid the shared property. (Mainichi/ Taketo Hayakawa)

TOKYO -- A group of citizens opposed to the expansion of Narita International Airport near Tokyo has filed an application with the Legal Affairs Bureau to incorporate the group to better organize their movements amid the aging of its members.

The group, comprising owners of shared property on the airport's premises in Chiba Prefecture and surrounding areas, filed the application for the establishment of a general incorporated association in late October. The group intends to resist the move by Narita International Airport Corp. (NAA) to acquire land for further expansion of the facility, by summing up the ownership rights into the new corporation.

The group's move comes as many property owners face inheritance issues amid the graying of its membership, and the once raging anti-airport movement dating back to the 1960s has lost its steam.

According to the group, called "Daichi Kyoyu Iinkai" (Committee for sharing land), preparations to establish a general incorporated association named "Sanrizuka Daichi Kyoyu Undo no Kai" (Association of a movement to share land in Sanrizuka) are underway. Currently, there are three tracts of land in and outside the airport grounds whose ownership is shared by the group's members.

One such plot, called "Kinone Pension no Niwa," lies between a taxiway and tarmac. The property has been owned by the group's members since 1983 by dividing up its ownership into one-thousandth each in a bid to block land acquisition for airport construction by the NAA's predecessor, the New Tokyo International Airport Authority. The resistance resulted in thwarting the construction of a crosswind runway.

While the New Tokyo International Airport Authority continued with land acquisition by repeatedly sending letters to owners of the shared property asking them to sell off the lots, and managed to buy some of the land from retired activists, the airport operator has acquired only 18.12 percent of the necessary plots to date. Accordingly, the roads within the airport and Shibayama Railway that was inaugurated in 2002 were constructed by skirting around the yet-to-be acquired land.

Today, youths who joined the anti-airport movement when it began during the 1960s are mostly at least 70 years old, and an increasing number of joint property owners are selling off their property to NAA as they face inheritance problems.

The group therefore decided to dissolve itself to turn it into a corporation. The organization will transfer the ownership of the shared property to the new corporation for free upon consent from some 850 joint owners across the country. Fees for registering the new ownership will be collected through donations. It is expected that the procedures for incorporating the group will be completed by the end of November.

A representative of the NAA's public relations department said, "We would like to continue discussions with land owners in a sincere manner and strive to acquire land."

The joint ownership movement dates back to 1966, when the Cabinet approved the construction of Narita airport. A group of local farmers who were owners of the planned construction site organized a protest campaign, and divided up the property ownership among several hundreds of people to complicate the land acquisition process. The movement was split in 1983 over issues including whether the properties should be further subdivided. As a result of subsequent land acquisition and court trials for land transfers, the number of jointly owned lots has declined to three.

(Japanese original by Taketo Hayakawa, Tokyo News Group)

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