TAG Farnborough Airport loses bid for expansionBy Pete Castle and Jack Sommers
November 11, 2009
TAG Farnborough Airport has failed to get the support it needed from councillors for its plans to expand the number of flights.
Airport owner and operator TAG asked Rushmoor's planning committee for permission to raise the number of take-offs and landings from 28,000 to 50,000.
But despite advice from planning officers and a panel of aviation experts who urged elected members to back the proposals, councillors voted overwhelmingly to block the move.
TAG said the increase would bring thousands of new jobs to the area and would help the economy, while noise, the risk of a crash and pollution would not adversely affect people living nearby.
However, protesters disagreed, and their concerns won over councillors who voted 7-1 in favour of binning the proposal.
TAG may now appeal against the decision. Such a move is likely to lead to another lengthy and expensive public inquiry which will have to be paid for by council tax payers in Aldershot and Farnborough.
The council's head of planning, Keith Holland, who endorsed the report recommending that the increase should be allowed, warned the politicians that in his opinion, any appeal by TAG into their decision would probably succeed.
The last appeal by TAG in 2007 to increase the number of weekend flights from 2,500 to 5,000 a year cost the council £110,000 in consultants and legal fees alone.
After the meeting, Geoff Marks, chairman of the Farnborough Airfield Residents' Association, who has led the campaign against the plans, said he felt vindicated in his opposition and said he was "looking forward" to fighting an appeal.
For full details and analysis of what the decision means for the future of Farnborough and the surrounding towns, see the News & Mail out on Friday, November 20.
THE DEBATE - MINUTE BY MINUTE
7pm - The debate is under way, with Rushmoor's head of planning Keith Holland outlining the reasons why the council believes TAG should be allowed to almost double its flights to 50,000 a year. It's standing room only at the back of the public gallery, with around 100 people at the meeting to hear the debate.
7.30pm - Speakers against the plans begin their efforts to persuade the politicians that the experts have got it wrong. First up, Farnborough resident Andrew Bower expresses his concern that a crash could happen to a plane taking off or landing. He sits down to rapturous applause.
7.39pm - Majit Dhamrait, from Farnborough, says: "The noise levels are horrendous."
7.43pm - Hart councillor Jenny Radley, from the Fleet and Church Crookham Civic Society, focuses her opposition on public safety issues.
7.49pm - Geoff Marks, chairman of the Farnborough Aerodrome Residents' Association, asks the planning committee to delay the decision until they have better information. He accuses Rushmoor's planning officers of ignoring the advice of their own air safety experts. He said: "Don't leave it to others to defend your judgement, as they would have to should a crash occur."
7.55pm - Clive Thomas, a resident of Kempton Court, Farnborough, says the smell of aviation fuel affects asthmatics in his home. "Sometimes the smell of aviation fuel is that thick that it burns your eyes and mouth," he said.
8pm - Brian Fyfe, a Farnborough resident, said the impact of noise was like "water torture" and questioned the impact of the increase in flights on children's education. "Children might not go deaf, but they might go daft," he said. "Every time a plane goes over I have to stop speaking - I will have to that more times, and more times."
8.05pm - Gordon Keyte, of the Crondall Society, says residents in Crondall already suffer from flights of military helicopters from RAF Odiham. "Why should we be made subject to more noise for the benefit of the few?" he asked the meeting.
8.10pm - Celia Hayden-Cook, from Seale, says that homeowners are unable to sell their houses as buyers are put off by the prospect of extra flights. "It's naive for people to expect this will stop. They will be back in two years asking for more [flights]. It's only going to get worse."
8.16pm - Get Hampshire reporter suffers computer crash. Apologies to David Mansfield, who said some interesting things. To find out what, and for a full analysis of the night's decision, see next week's News & Mail, out on Friday, November 20.
8.22pm - Kevin Daley from Mytchett is up now. He's talking about the effects of noise on children's cognitive abilities.
8.28pm - Brian Townley, councillor from Surrey Heath, says planners from Camberley disagree with their colleagues in Farnborough.
8.34pm - Richard Appleton, from Hart District Council, says Fleet planners also disagree with the Rushmoor report.
8.40pm - David Stewart, from the South East England Development Agency, sits down to boos from the audience after suggesting that the economy of the region would benefit from a bigger airport.
8.44pm - Guy Lachlan, from British Business General Aviation, suggests that business jets are as clean as cars and are "very quiet" - a suggestion that raises hollow laughs from the audience. He sits down to a slow clap and chairman John Marsh has to call for order.
8.49pm - Marwan Khalek, chief executive of Gama Aviation, a Farnborough Airport-based jet company, says private jets are not just for celebrities but are essential for the UK and local economy.
8.53pm - Brandon O'Reilly, chief executive of TAG Farnborough Airport, says the airport has consulted widely on its expansion, and the new 50,000 limit would lead to a significant benefits to the area.
8.58pm - That's the end of the public speaking - now the experts are clarifying some issues...
9.10pm - George Paparesti (Con, Manor Park) - says he will be voting AGAINST the proposal.
9.15pm - Adam Jackman (Con, Knellwood) - says he also will be voting AGAINST the increase of flights. It's not looking good for TAG. Both councillors have so far sat down to keen applause.
9.22pm - Sue Dibble (Lab, North Town) - she's "really sadly unable to support the application this evening" and therefore AGAINST.
9.28pm - Craig Card (Lib Dem, Mayfield) - he's not making his voting position clear but wants to change weekend flight limits. Head of planning Keith Holland says it's "all or nothing".
9.31pm - Ken Muschamp (Con, Fernhill) - wants to support jobs, says he "doesn't really understand" risk contours but doesn't think Farnborough Airport passengers are contributing to the local economy. He's going to vote AGAINST.
9.44pm - Gareth Lyon (Con, Empress) - says he supports TAG but feels that the will of the people should hold sway. Is voting AGAINST
9.52pm - Brian Parker (Con, Empress) - will vote AGAINST the application, but is keen to put the BBC and ITV reporters right on their terminology. That's six votes against - TAG has lost. Brandon O'Reilly, TAG's boss sitting in the front row, looks stoney faced. Geoff Marks, the chairman of the residents' association that opposed the plan, sitting a few seats away, is positively beaming.
10.02pm - Charlie Fraser-Fleming (Lib Dem, Mayfield) - is concerned about safety. But after a long speech he says he will vote FOR the increase in flights.
10.17pm - Steve Smith (Con, West Heath) - asks about the current flight numbers but gives no indication of his voting intentions.
10.18pm - Peter Crerar (Con, Manor Park) - says parts of Rushmoor will benefit from more flights.
10.30pm - Head of planning Keith Holland is summing up, but says that he feels that while councillors look set to vote against the application, the likelihood is that their decision will be overturned at an appeal.
THE FINAL VOTE:
In favour: 1
Check www.gethampshire.co.uk for video reports, and see the News & Mail, out on Friday, November 20, to find out how this decision will affect your town.