Government response to the ‘Airfields not Brownfields’ petition
Unfortunately the response from the Government (see ‘Notes’ p.14) just reinforces the current disaster that the planning process has become. When we had the PPG (Planning Practice Guidance) and then the PPS (Planning Policy Statement) there were at least the results from years of legal argument that had been settled in the courts to produce something approaching a workable set of rules. This government in its desire to ‘build our way out of the recession’ needed to remove all those hard won safeguards to enable their friends in the building industry to land-grab and develop any piece of land, no matter what the effect might be on the country. Thus the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) was brought into being with the supposed reduction from 1,000 pages of planning down to some 45 or so, which they claimed was a success in taking away all those annoying restrictions. No sooner had this NPPF been published than the arguments started due to the many contradictory statements contained within it. In an attempt to help resolve this, the Government has produced guidance material which is about 1,000 pages long — thus the hard won document of 1,000 pages has been replaced by more than 1,045 pages of contradictory arguments! And the government claims this as a success?
The response to the petition makes this quite clear, or rather not clear, as each government department has added their own bit of planning to support their requirements. Hence we now have an apparent desire to support aerodromes as part of the transport infrastructure which competes with the latest edict on Brownfield automatic approval to support the government desire to build houses. Leaving the problem of finding land for all the proposed 100,000 dwellings per year — that’s the equivalent of building a city the size of Bristol every year — to the poor Councils has just passed the buck to people who cannot comply. Thus any aerodrome within a Council’s area has to be ripe for them to make use of the other part of the response to the petition answer that states ‘Applications for planning permission to re-develop airfields must be determined in accordance with Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans and the London Plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.’
We need to ensure that the NPPF ‘material consideration’ in planning decisions regarding the importance of aerodromes is always taken as the prime reason for not developing the area during the compilation of Local Plans — but we do need to ensure that the aerodrome being threatened can be shown to be important. Bourne immediately springs to mind as a difficult case.
At least with this statement, confusing though it is, we have something to fight the poor planning authorities who have been dumped on by the Government edict ‘to build our way out of the recession’.
I am mildly optimistic but actual cases will prove the worth of the confusing NPPF statements. I am also looking forward to the follow up discussion intimated by the statement ‘We will work with the aviation sector to ensure the current policy relating to development on airfields is better understood’. They seem to be inviting a series of meetings where ‘they’ will explain why they need to build on aerodromes as they admit to not understanding the importance of the sites? They also admit they haven’t a clue about how aviation operates and need to be either told or shown.