AIR­FIELDS

Pilot - - NOTES -

The de Hav­il­land Moth Club re­ports that Bri­tish air­fields are com­ing un­der in­creas­ing threat from prop­erty

de­vel­op­ers since they were cat­e­gorised as ‘brown­field’ sites ( Peter­bor­ough-sib­son be­ing one such tar­geted for hous­ing

devel­op­ment). DHMC mem­ber John Gilder, MRICS, MRAES, has there­fore pro­vided th­ese com­ments in his ca­pac­ity as Vice-chair­man (Plan­ning) of the Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Aware­ness Coun­cil (GAAC).

“The GAAC is an ‘um­brella’ or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing the spec­trum of ac­tive GA or­gan­i­sa­tions in dis­cus­sions with Gov­ern­ment. Our mem­bers in­clude the LAA, AOPA, BGA, BBGA, AOA, bal­loon­ists, mi­cro­lighters, farm­ers, aero­mod­ellers and many oth­ers… To­gether with my GAAC col­leagues, Steve Slater (LAA Chief Ex­ec­u­tive and Pi­lot con­trib­u­tor) and John Walker of AOPA we are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion with al­most ev­ery air­field cur­rently or im­mi­nently un­der threat. Our Chair­man, Charles Henry, and I are also pro­gress­ing dis­cus­sions with the De­part­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties & Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (DCLG) to ad­dress the ‘brown­field’ is­sue, among oth­ers. We met the DCLG on 6 De­cem­ber and a fol­low up is sched­uled for late Fe­bru­ary, so this is very much a live sit­u­a­tion and, they are lis­ten­ing.

“The DCLG re­sponse on the is­sue of air­fields be­ing ‘brown­field’ mer­its a spe­cial men­tion as a few key points have al­ready emerged:

1. The land must be re­dun­dant (i.e. un­used) for in­clu­sion in Lo­cal Au­thor­ity lists of ‘land suit­able for devel­op­ment’. By def­i­ni­tion ac­tive air­fields are, there­fore, not sub­ject to the pre­sump­tion that devel­op­ment should be al­lowed.

2. The Min­is­ter, Gavin Bar­well, re­sponded to an en­quiry by Nick Hird, MP, ex­plain­ing that air­fields are not ‘des­ig­nated’ as ‘brown­field’, they are ‘de­scribed’, which ap­pears to mark a change in DCLG think­ing.

3. The DCLG re­stated that any ap­pli­ca­tion re­lat­ing to an ex­ist­ing air­field should be treated the same as any other

ap­pli­ca­tion, and all rel­e­vant ev­i­dence should be con­sid­ered. This means amenity value, com­mu­nity use and wildlife habi­tat can be in­cluded: air­fields should not be in a lesser sit­u­a­tion than any other user.

4. A con­cern was raised with the DCLG that plan­ners do not al­ways con­sider the re­quire­ments of ‘the third di­men­sion’ when re­view­ing plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions. Air­fields need space be­yond the bound­ary for emer­gen­cies [and] tall ob­struc­tions close to air­fields can be a haz­ard. This was ac­cepted and will be dis­cussed again at our next meet­ing.

“Mov­ing to the specifics at Sib­son, the pro­posal has met with strong lo­cal ob­jec­tions and the cur­rent ap­pli­ca­tion is

ex­pected to fail. How­ever, it is only the start, as the landowner is be­hind the ap­pli­ca­tion and has both the re­sources and in­cen­tive to keep press­ing. The plan is for a self-con­tained com­mu­nity scheme… which are not now gen­er­ally favoured by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, who see them as so­cially di­vi­sive traf­fic gen­er­a­tors that leave them with the cost of pro­vi­sion, and con­tin­u­a­tion, of ser­vices. We will sup­port the lo­cal au­thor­ity when the time comes, just as we al­ready have at Pan­shanger. “Among oth­ers be­ing monitored,

RAF Hal­ton is a very big site and our fo­cus is the air­field, which is largely sep­a­rate from the main build­ings. Th­ese are eas­ier to de­velop, as the site ser­vices al­ready ex­ist and the area is sub­stan­tially de­vel­oped. We are not aware of any ap­pli­ca­tions but are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion closely and are aware of in­ter­est from air­field op­er­a­tors who be­lieve it could be com­mer­cially vi­able.

“The tim­ings in the re­cent an­nounce­ments ap­par­ently took the RAF by sur­prise and it seems that even those on a short timetable ( Hen­low, Col­erne and

Chal­grove) may strug­gle to close by 2020, as the re­lo­ca­tion sites are un­likely to be ready. Hen­low is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to GA and pos­i­tive ini­tial dis­cus­sions have been held with sev­eral in­ter­est groups in­clud­ing Sport Eng­land and the Shut­tle­worth Col­lec­tion. The Lo­cal Au­thor­ity has the site al­lo­cated for air­field use in its cur­rent plan. We in­tend to meet with both the fly­ing club and lo­cal au­thor­ity early in 2017 to dis­cuss pos­si­ble op­tions. Manston is also a very cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with an Amer­i­can-led chal­lenge cre­at­ing a tricky is­sue for the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

“The New Year is likely to be a busy one. We are mak­ing progress with the DCLG, who now un­der­stand that the un­cer­tainty caused by the brown­field con­fu­sion is de­ter­ring in­vest­ment in avi­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties and en­cour­ag­ing spec­u­la­tion by vo­ra­cious de­vel­op­ers. They have also reaf­firmed the pol­icy that GA is the crit­i­cally im­por­tant start­ing point for those as­pir­ing to the larger com­mer­cial avi­a­tion sec­tor and needs to be pro­tected.”

A pe­ti­tion to prompt the gov­ern­ment to re­assess GA gen­eral avi­a­tion air­fields as

green belt, not brown­field sites has been raised at https://pe­ti­tion.par­lia­ment.uk/pe­ti­tions/174826 Work is to start soon on re­fur­bish­ing the

Con­trol Tower at Old Sarum Air­field, which cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary this year. Orig­i­nally built as a ra­dio sta­tion dur­ing the Cold War, the build­ing be­came a Con­trol Tower in the 1980s, but has started to fall be­low the stan­dards ex­pected for the ded­i­cated team of staff and is in drastic need of re­pair. Be­fore any work can start, an as­sess­ment needs to be made of what needs do­ing. As this isn’t fea­si­ble while the Tower is in ac­tive use, a tem­po­rary build­ing has been erected to al­low air/ground ra­dio op­er­a­tions to con­tinue (photo above).

Air­field Man­ager An­gus Beal says, “I am pleased that we are now able to start the process of re­fur­bish­ing the Con­trol Tower. We are keen to pro­vide a suit­able work­place for our team, and pro­vide them with a safe and com­fort­able work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. This is the first stage of re­fur­bish­ment work planned for the air­field to help main­tain fly­ing ac­tiv­ity and se­cure the air­field’s fu­ture.”

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