VILLAGERS have won a major - if not total - victory in their battle against noisy vehicle testing on an airfield near York.

A district judge has told the owners of Elvington Airfield that Formula One racing cars cannot be tested there on more than ten days a year.

That is less than the total ban residents wanted, but still fewer than the number of F1 testing days conducted so far this year - 16, according to council officials.

The judge also ordered that Auto 66 motorbike events should not take place more than once every six weeks and guaranteed that villagers should enjoy a quiet weekend once every four weeks.

There could be more quiet weekends if exceptionally noisy events are held, which would include speed tests such as the one organised by the BBC's Top Gear programme in September, in which presenter Richard Hammond was hurt after crashing a jet car.

Other noise restrictions suggested by City of York Council were imposed as well, and residents will be given four weeks' notice of noisy events taking place.

District Judge Harrison also ordered Elvington Park Ltd to pay three-quarters of City of York Council's estimated £40,000 costs, despite strong objections from the company's barrister.

The decision came at the end of a lengthy hearing, the first part of which took place at Pickering Magistrates Court, in July, before being adjourned and then resuming this week at Harrogate Magistrates Court.

During the summer hearing, resident Timothy Vicary claimed the "horrendous and outrageous" noise from vehicle testing was ruining the life of him and his wife. He said the noise of the testing of Formula One racing cars and motorcycle events made them depressed, irritated and angry.

Another resident, Denise Howard, compared the noise of the squeal of tyres on tarmac during testing to "howling banshees whipping through the house".

The court was also told then that McLaren's Formula One testing team could quit Britain if it was banned from the airfield.

The judge said yesterday there was no doubt that testing on the airfield, which has one of the longest runways in Britain, caused a nuisance to residents living nearby - and the company had now accepted this.

He said it would be unreasonable to prohibit Formula One testing altogether, but it should take place no more than ten days a year.

Residents who had travelled to Harrogate to hear the verdict said afterwards they viewed it largely as a victory, although they would like to have seen a total ban on Formula One testing.

Timothy Vicary said: "We have been badly affected (by the noise). We are glad that the court has decided in the council's favour."

A spokesman for Elvington Park Ltd declined to comment after the case, and would not say if it intended appealing against the decision.