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Farnborough Airfield

The Aerodrome lies in an area of considerable nature conservation sensitivity, with significant expanses of wetland, grassland and heathland habitats in and around the site. -- TAG

Farnborough Airfield, host to the biennial Farnborough International Airshow organised by SBAC, synonymous with aviation due to the early flights by Sam Cody and once host to the RAE (now DERA) the world's leading aerospace research establishment, is now surplus to MoD requirements. Against strong local opposition the MoD wish to see the airfield hived off to TAG Aviation to be developed as the Business Airport for Europe. The local community wish to see flying kept to a minimum and preferably the land returned to the local community as common land (cf Greenham Common).

TAG, Techniques Avante Garde, a foreign, Arab owned company registered in Luxembourg and Switzerland, are the leading contenders for development of the airfield. They have put in a planning application to develop the site as a business airport, with a minimum of 25,000 movements, the automatic right of revision at 20,000 movements. TAG want no limits on either movements or weight. Current movements are around 12-13,000, weight limit 35 tonnes. TAG expect at least 12.5% of their movements to be above 50 tonnes, this will include the Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 327) and Airbus 320 (both around 80 tonnes).

Damaging effects of the TAG proposals will include damage to several SSSIs and a SPA, threats to rare and endangered species, increased noise pollution, extra traffic, higher levels of air pollution (this will peak on the A325 main Farnborough Road which already is notorious as one of the pollution black spots in Southern England), problems of safety for residential Farnborough (the 1 in 100,000 risk contour will extend over Farnborough and as far out as Mytchett), climate destabilisation through increased greenhouse gas emissions (by 2015, half of the annual destruction of the ozone layer and 15% of greenhouse gas emissions will be caused by air traffic).

Rushmoor, ever mindful of the interests of TAG and ignoring objections from the local community, are pushing through changes to the Local Plan. They are ignoring recommendations from the Planning Inspector to prevent the 1 in 100,000 risk contour from extending over residential Farnborough (this would limit the number of movements to around 10,000). Business jets are 16 times less safe than scheduled commercial airlines. Third world business jets have an even worse safety record.

The planning Inquiry Inspector Alan Simpson recommended:

That the number of movements be restricted by safety considerations (the risk of an accident over the approach must not exceed 1 in 100,000).

In response, Rushmoor officials (after trying to claim the inspector did not know what he was talking about) are putting the profits of the airfield operators before public safety:

The Inspector's recommendation would mean curtailing business aviation to below the level of 10,000 movements in 1997. Such a level of flying would unlikely to be economically viable ... Any exposure to the lower level of risk of 1 in 100,000 per annum will be weighed against any overriding employment and economic benefits from accommodating business aviation ... Ultimately the Council will have to decide in relation to a planning application, the weight to be given to 1 in 100,000 risk and to any economic/employment benefits from business aviation.

Rushmoor are raising the ceiling on movements to 28,000 to accommodate TAG. The Local Plan prior to modification placed the limit at 20,000 movements. At public meetings TAG have stated they would not accept an upper limit of 30,000 or 50,000. In their planning application they state they want no limit. Independent aviation experts have estimated TAG are looking for 100-150,000 movements.

28,000 appears to have been plucked out of thin air. 25,000 would appear too much of a coincidence, 28,000 gives TAG a little bit of leeway. A study by TRL commissioned by Farnborough College of Technology showed the airfield would be viable at 16,000 movements. More than the current level, more than safety would dictate, but half what Rushmoor are proposing.

The changes to the Local Plan being forced through by Rushmoor will lead to increased noise, deteriorating environment, loss of quality of life and put the local community at risk.

Rushmoor are refusing to hold a second Public Inquiry. They have an obligation to do so for several reasons: new information, changes to the Local Plan, ignoring advice from Planning Inspector, objections from the public. In the interests of fairness all these issues have to be tested in an independent forum. Rushmoor are ignoring legal advice to this effect given to them by leading barrister Michael Bedford.

Monday 19 June 2000, Rushmoor held a planning meeting (Planning and Transportation Committee) to consider the TAG-driven changes to the Local Plan. Only one member of the committee had the integrity to speak on behalf of the local community, only one member of the committee had the integrity to vote against immediate adoption of the modified Local Plan. There was no discussion, no debate. Of the 21 members of the committee only one had the integrity to act on behalf of the local community. The meeting was summed up by comments from Tory leader Councillor John Debenham who said 'I would not wish to embarrass my colleagues with a second Public Inquiry.'

Thursday 29 June 2000, the modified Local Plan was placed before the full council where an overwhelming majority of councillors voted for immediate adoption. They refused to heed local concerns over safety, ignored the advice of their own barrister, and refused to call a second Public Inquiry.

The reason for the rush, and the refusal to hold a second Public Inquiry, was to enable the TAG planning application to be passed. Rushmoor and TAG are hoping to be in a position to announce the Business Airport at the Farnborough International Airshow (24-30 July 2000).

Rushmoor are putting private profit before public safety, corporate profit before the environment.

A special planning meeting to discuss the TAG planning application took place at 7pm on 30 August 2000. The application was approved. John Prescott (DETR) refused to call the application in.

All avenues in the planning process are now exhausted. Possibility of judicial review, action by Ombudsman, action by European Commission (habitats to be destroyed for part of an SPA, a European designation). The only realistic option left is direct action.

We are asking everyone in the locality and further afield to help us oppose this damaging development.

During 1999 BVFoE ran a very successful campaign, it now appears to have all but fizzled out. They appear to have lost their way and all but given up. The deliberate trashing of their web site by one of their own members did little to help either them or the local community.

Detailed analysis and criticism of expansion of Farnborough Airfield:

Background information on aviation:

Other local campaigns:

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