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
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
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.