Planning Appeal – 30 November 2017

The owners and management team of Old Sarum Airfield reluctantly decided that we had no option but to appeal Wiltshire Council’s failure to determine our planning application, an application which would deliver the Council’s Core Policy for the airfield. After years of discussion, site investigations and many studies, our leading team of heritage planners, engineers, architects, environmentalist and sound experts submitted our application to the Council in May 2015. Since that time we have given the council seven (7) extensions to the normal period to determine the application.

Over the last two and a half years we have worked tirelessly to provide a mountain of additional information requested by the council in an effort to educate their officers in the details of this somewhat more complex application than they are used to evaluating. This has been at a very, very significant cost to us both financially and in terms of valuable time spent respecting fully the mandates of the Core Policy, respect which has caused unavoidable operating losses as we struggle to limit noise from our aviation activities.

We had been given to understand throughout this process that the council would approve our application and we had made significant changes to our original proposals to meet what we consider unreasonable demands. By the officers’ actions and messages over recent months we have come to the difficult conclusion that the council has no intention of determining our application, instead it has taken the decision to abrogate its responsibilities to a government inspector.

The Core Policy for the airfield is very clear in that it is the council’s means of resolving longstanding issues caused by having an active airfield close to many homes – an issue made massively more difficult through the council’s decision to build thousands of new homes around the perimeter of the airfield. Starting 20 years ago we warned about the inevitable conflict between the airfield’s right to unlimited flying and these new homes. We were ignored. The council never took up our offers to discuss a way forward.

Then that changed, or so we thought. In 2007, at their request, we came to an agreement with the council to develop a policy that would give the council reasonable controls over flying whilst facilitating the investment in the airfield to make this viable. In 2010 the council issued a joint Statement of Common Ground which confirmed this agreement. We have implemented our voluntary obligation under that Statement (to reduce flying to limit noise – we cut flying in half) thereby losing millions of pounds over the last ten years. Contrary to our good faith the council has totally reneged, perhaps having gained the noise reduction it wished due to our good faith – or perhaps the council does not care about aviation noise.
Our 2015 application and 2017 appeal would deliver all of the benefits of the Core Policy: (i) enhancing the heritage of the airfield; (ii) providing a viable future for flying but for the first time ever with controls over noise thus averting a the substantial loss in value for many hundreds of homes if we are forced to exercise our right to unlimited flying; (iii) important additional benefits for the local community involving traffic and public spaces; plus (iv) some 450 high quality new homes which are so desperately needed both locally and nationally.

Perhaps the most significant factor is that it would relieve many homes from the damaging effects of the very significant increase in noise, day and night, that will need to occur if our application fails. After decades of subsidising the airfield, the Hudson family will no longer continue. However, the 2015 application and the 2017 appeal documents make clear that if the application is approved as submitted, the Hudsons will support the construction of various heritage amenities capable of producing cash flow to support continued but restricted flying (as the Core Policy mandates), as such restricted flying would otherwise not cover operating costs. These amenities would have included the National Aviation and Aerospace Library which is owned by the Royal Aeronautical Society and currently housed at Farnborough. This support amounts to effectively gifting the development land to a developer who will follow the Core Policy and, moreover making a substantial seven-figure gift to the development to cover non-commercial (heritage and aviation) costs.