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22/05/01 GAAC Seminar Notes
GAAC Seminar: The Future Looks Bleak - Unless

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.
A straightforward and simple to use noise criterion is essential if airfield proposals are to be properly assessed.
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 short term.

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."

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Notes taken at the GAAC seminar;
"The Future for UK Aerodromes"
4th May 2001
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Seminar Index
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Bleak Future
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)White Waltham
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Little Gransden
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Safeguarding
sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Quiet Aeroplane

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