|Peter Kember DipTP MRTPI MIMgt
Senior Partner, Kember Loudon Williams
Chartered Town Planning Consultants
The first presentation of the day was a run through of the current pressures aerodromes
increasingly find themselves under. A somewhat bleak view of the future was presented.
Although the number of GA aircraft in the UK has doubled to 15,000 in the last 15 years,
the number of licensed and published unlicensed aerodromes has remained largely static.
The expansion of commercial air transport has served to displace GA activities from larger
airports, to the consternation of local residents around the smaller aerodromes. There is
no planned provision or expansion of dedicated aerodromes, whilst diversification in the
farming industry offers the prospects only of isolated rural strips with basic or no
facilities, and which can not meet the demand for training.
Matters of aerodrome planning are delegated by
central government to local authorities who are often ignorant of aviation issues or, as
owners, often regard their aerodrome as prime redevelopment land. Local planning is done
within the framework of Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPG's), most notably for aviation
in PPG13 on transport and PPG24 on noise. PPG13 has only recently been revised to give a
stronger steer in the protection of aerodrome sites, but PPG24 remains for now obscure,
unhelpful, and subject to interpretation. These guidelines, and guidelines are all they
really are, are used in the formulation of local government development plans. The
importance of such plans to aerodromes can be seen in the fact that the GAAC has made
representations in support of GA in respect of over 300 development plans in the UK.
At specific case level development plans and
policy guidelines form the basis on which individual planning decisions are made. From an
analysis of past decisions relating to aerodrome appeals it was concluded that:-
|It is not possible
to predict with a high degree of accuracy the outcome of any particular appeal.
|The planning policy
background is confused and in some respects contradictory.
|Aircraft noise is
the principle determining factor in planning decisions.
|Advice on noise
given in PPG24 is inadequate and capable of being interpreted in different ways.
and simple to use noise criterion is essential if airfield proposals are to be properly
|Some people will
object even if aircraft are made totally silenced.
|It will take many
years to achieve a reduction in noise from the existing UK light aircraft fleet.
|The emergence of new
quieter aircraft is unlikely to improve the environmental climate of UK aerodromes in the
Noise is the most pressing of the environmental
challenges facing GA today and it is only a matter of time before the stringent
restrictions currently in force in Germany and Switzerland become policy in the UK. Indeed
the government rural white paper of November 2000 places much greater emphasis than PPG24
on the preservation and enhancement of peace and tranquillity in rural areas.
The theme that emerges is the importance of the local community to the future viability of
an aerodrome. Local residents are increasingly intolerant of GA activities and find within
the local authorities the means to stop them. In such an environment it is becoming
increasingly imperative that effective relations with the local community are maintained.
Unfortunately, having advised on over 60 different aerodromes in the UK and some elsewhere
in Europe Peter Kember has a stark conclusion to draw. "I have seen so very few
attempts to establish any sort of dialogue with those at the local level who have the
power to influence the future of an aerodrome that in consequence I am very despondent
about the future for most aerodromes."
From experience, aerodrome public relations
that are based on a confrontational approach can not expect to fare well in public
inquiries. Traditional arguments, such as the old favourite "the aerodrome was here
first", betray an attitude that does not stack up anymore. Public participation in
decision making is now enshrined in UK planning legislation, and "without a concerted
effort at all levels the future for UK aerodromes looks bleak."