Mission Aviation Fellowship

Better outlook for UK training airfields

A number of key announcements in July have bought hopes of the continuance of flying operations at one of the UK’s busiest training airfields, as well as the prospect of two recently closed airfields returning to active status.

As previously reported in FTN, flying schools at Wellesbourne Airfield in Warwickshire received eviction notices at the end of 2015, amid fears that the airfield was to be closed and redeveloped as a housing estate. According to the ‘Wellesbourne Matters’ campaign, the retention and enhancement of aviation activity at Wellesbourne airfield is now formally supported by Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s adopted Core Strategy.

The Core Strategy document – the planning blueprint for sustainable future development in the District up to 2031, was adopted at the District Council’s full Council meeting on Monday 11 July.

Cllr Chris Saint, Leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council said: “Wellesbourne Airfield is an important asset for Wellesbourne and the surrounding areas. The District Council has always valued the airfield and its related business and aviation facilities and has been keen to establish this from the outset. We have always sought to protect this site from development, safeguarding not only the existing activities but the future of the airfield and we have now been able to do so.”

Cllr Dave Riches, Enterprise and Revenues Portfolio added: “This is great news. Around the country small, General Aviation airfields are at threat and it’s important that we strive to protect them. Hopefully now, we can support the airfield to sustain its existing social and economic benefits and work towards improving them. Exciting times! While we appreciate the airfield residents may still have challenges ahead, this should send a clear signal that the authority is more than supportive of the facility.”

Better outlook for UK training airfields

The Inspector’s Final Report concluded that Wellesbourne airfield was unsuitable for development due to the lack of capacity on the highways network; the loss of airfield activities and landscape impacts. The Inspector also concluded that ‘On the evidence before the examination it is by no means clear that the lawful use of the airfield would be extinguished by the notice that has been served.’

‘Wellesbourne Matters’ says that the District Council has consistently supported the established activities at Wellesbourne Airfield and in response to representations made by Wellesbourne Matters it put forward a more positive statement about the role of the airfield at the time of plan submission in September 2014. This approach was formally endorsed at the Full Council meeting in June 2015. The published main modifications to Policy AS.9 (the Area Strategy for Wellesbourne) confirm an intention to: “Retain and support the enhancement of the established flying functions and aviation related facilities at Wellesbourne airfield” which has now been endorsed by the examination inspector.

Meantime, campaigners for the re-opening of Plymouth airport, which was closed and ‘mothballed’ in December 2011, say that Plymouth City Council is presently consulting with the public on the Plymouth Plan, known as the Joint Local Plan. The Council says “We are currently in the process of consulting on the Plymouth and South West Devon Local Plan with South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils. In Plymouth it’s Crunch Time: Where will we build and what will we protect? This takes forward all previous comments made on Plymouth Plan Part One and Plymouth Plan Part Two.” The campaign group ‘FlyPlymouth’ are urging supporters who believe that Plymouth City Council is right to safeguard the airport in the Plymouth Plan to go to the Council’s website where there is an online form to complete and return by post or email to Plymouth City Council. Supporters say that the safeguarding of Plymouth airport in the Plymouth Plan is by no means guaranteed and will almost certainly be challenged at an Examination in Public during 2017 by those wishing to build on the airport. A planning inspector will examine the Plan together with the evidence upon which it is based. Representations will very likely be made by stakeholders including Plymouth City Council and those objecting to the airport’s safeguarding together with consultants and lawyers.

According to local press reports, there may be a return to flying at Panshanger airfield, which closed in September 2014. According to the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Welwyn Hatfield Council has changed its mind over plans which would have seen the continuation of Panshanger airfield scrapped as part of the Local Plan. A council planning committee previously accepted officers’ recommendations to include the airfield site in its draft plan, with over 700 houses to be built on the airfield site.

However, at a recent council meeting, the same committee voted unanimously to remove the initial proposal, and replace it with a new proposal that retains the airfield and did not include any building on the Green Belt part of the airfield site. The new plan would see the airfield moved slightly to the north, with 650 properties to be built on land designated for housing.

Cllr Mandy Perkins, executive member for planning, housing and community, was quoted by the Welwyn Hatfield Times as saying “I have given a great deal of thought to the loss of the airfield since the planning panel meeting on June 13, and revisited Sport England’s conclusions that the site is likely to be confirmed as a significant area for sport in the region. Having had more time to consider the wide variety of views, and proposals from third parties to relocate the runway, I wanted to take the final opportunity before seeking cabinet approval to suggest a compromise. I am pleased my fellow CHPP members shared the view that this way forward balances the need to deliver homes and protect the Green Belt with retaining an important heritage and sporting asset.”

Author: FTN

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