Gov­ern­ment re­sponse to the ‘Air­fields not Brown­fields’ pe­ti­tion

Pilot - - AIRMAIL - John Broad, by email

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.

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