The General Aviation Awareness Council (GAAC) has written to Robert Jenrick, UK Secretary of State for Housing, in relation to recent proposals by the Government for radical planning reforms in England.
The proposals were published by MHCLG (the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government) in August under the title ‘Planning for the Future’.
In the letter, GAAC Vice-Chairman John Gilder states: “The GAAC constantly handles planning issues on behalf of General Aviation airfields and the intention to streamline the planning process, speed up decision making, and increase certainty is welcomed.
“However, the way in which policies will be framed for General Aviation (GA) airfields is currently unclear and the GAAC would like to set out its initial response now while reserving the right to continue engaging with the proposed changes to the planning system as more detail emerges.”
The letter states that “General Aviation Airfields are critical sites that need to be available for the accommodation of the transport and logistics infrastructure of the future – including the new generation of electric aircraft, UAVs (drones) and air taxis now emerging.”
GAAC pointed to the work undertaken through the All Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation (APPG-GA) that helped to ensure that the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) included “new provisions for General Aviation obligating local planning authorities to shape their policies to recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields.”
The letter points out that “Some planning authorities have already adopted local plan policies which specifically identify GA airfields, encourage aviation-related development on such sites and protect the sites from the threat of inappropriate development which would inhibit GA’s utilisation of the site. In other cases, where Local Plans are still emerging, local planning authorities are being encouraged to include similarly positive policies.”
One of the stated objectives of the Department for Transport’s Aviation Strategy is to support General Aviation which, critically, includes promoting the provision of this aviation infrastructure.
Gilder continues: “Understandably this initial Consultation Document [on planning] does not comment specifically on how GA airfields would be protected under the new proposals, so it is essential that further guidance on the status of GA airfields is provided by MHCLG to avoid local authorities, particularly where Local Plan policies are not compliant with the NPPF, placing them in the wrong zone.
“As a general rule the GAAC considers the ‘Renewal’ Zone to be the most appropriate for established GA airfields. This allocation would give certainty to the airfield owners and operators that development according with the NPPF wording would, in principle, be acceptable. However, this requires the ‘Renewal’ definition to be extended beyond the current assumption that the Zone would generally relate to urban or brownfield locations.
“The Paper regularly refers to ‘Infrastructure’, particularly when adding clarity. We believe it may be more appropriate to simply designate Infrastructure as a fourth zoning category as this will also benefit other types of land use comparable to GA Airfields that may not easily fit into the current three categories – for example, hospital grounds and cargo ports.
“We believe this suggestion to be a sensible addition to your proposals. GA airfields still face a number of challenges inherent in the current system. The proposed changes offer an opportunity to remove some of those challenges, increase certainty and facilitate increased investment in General Aviation, with attendant direct benefits for the local economy, particularly employment, near the airfield that can spill over into surrounding of the area.”
The letter then lists examples of these challenges (see link below) before concluding that “the GAAC is very willing to work with MHCLG to get this right….
“In particular, organisations involved with the GAAC/APPG alliance are working with the Department of Transport on the definition of a National Network of Strategically Important GA Airfields which will include most of those sites where zoning is necessary and appropriate.