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Action for Airfields - Supporters network helping to support airfields now and for the future Action for Airfields - Supporters network helping to support airfields now and for the future

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Clutton Hill
Clutton Hill is a small air strip 7nm east of Bristol Airport. It has been operating as a strip for some 20 years and for the majority of that time has escaped any complaints about noise. Since 1992 it has been the home of Wessex Aero Club, with 35 members.

Although the level of flying activity has been consistent since 1992, the first complaints were made in 1996. A campaign was begun to have the air strip closed down. This campaign was initially led by three individuals, eventually rising in number to sixteen.

In order to raise support for the strip, each member of the club was given the target of obtaining 100 letters of support. In addition an e-mail campaign was launched to try and solicit support from aviators nation-wide. This proved to be long hard work, and the result was somewhat disappointing, with a 20% response rate from the 7000 e-mails sent.

The local community was also identified as a key area of support. Mass coverage of the most affected village was organised, with personal visits to explain their case, and the effort was made to show the local community how the air strip operated. The club implements flight procedures to minimise disturbance to its neighbours, which involve defined arrival and departure plans and avoiding flying in the airfield locality.

A public hearing was convened in July 2000, with Clutton Hill employing a professional solicitor and planning expert with previous experience of airfield inquiries to help them in their defence. Arguments presented both for and against were based mainly on the issues of noise and inappropriate use of greenbelt.

Attempts by supporters to emphasise the 16 hour average noise measurement (LAeq) were undermined by planning policy guidelines (PPG24) which state that this figure is not applicable to aerodromes with less than 30 movements per day. As with the case at Hanley, most weight was given to maximum noise measurements (LAmax). This was despite attempts by objectors to present public perception of noise, without supporting objective evidence, as reason enough to close the strip.

Despite the heavy emphasis on LAmax, the inspector felt that the noise generated would be of sufficiently brief duration and of sufficient infrequency as to not have an unacceptable impact on local inhabitants. Key to this decision are conditions which limit the number of aircraft movements to 16 daily and 1500 annually (with take off and landing each counting as a separate movement). In an echo of the Hanley case, objectors claimed that such conditions were unenforceable. Fortunately the inspector did not accept this.

It is interesting to note the Inspector accepted that LAmax measurements of noise from 2 tractors, 1 van, and 3 cars exceeded those of aircraft taking off.

On the issue of inappropriate use of greenbelt, the inspector also found for the airstrip. This decision was based on current planning policy guidelines (PPG2) and the emerging Wansdyke Local Plan, in preference to the older statutory development plan.

The campaign against the air strip was started by 3 individuals, later swelling to 16. At the inquiry objectors presented 45 letters, a 250 signature petition, and claimed that 42 of 61 residential properties under the flight path opposed the strip. Against this were 85 individually written and some 2000 standard proforma letters of support. The local population within 1 mile of the strip is estimated at 5000.

The decision, published at the end of October 2000, granted the air strip planning permission for the retention of the existing airfield, together with storage of aircraft, windsock, anenometer, and the lengthening of the runway by 100m. The airfield was also granted partial costs.

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Noise was regarded by the planning inspector as "the crux of the case".

The inspector agreed with the decision taken at Hanley to give most weight to maximum noise levels.

Decisions relating to use of greenbelt were based on planning policy guidelines and local plans.

A small minority of the local population opposed the strip, with an even smaller minority actively campaigning against it.

Raising support for the strip was hard work. Standard proforma letters help but individually written letters are most effective.

Professional representation is important.

The understanding of the local community is  important.

sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Hanley William
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Noise

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