Airport flights decision expected later this yearBy Jack Sommers
July 02, 2010
THE final decision about whether Farnborough Airport should be allowed 50,000 flights a year must explain why the extra risk to people under the flightpath is justified, a public inquiry heard on its last day.
After more than one month of written evidence, expert witnesses and members of the public speaking, the inquiry into airport owner TAG’s appeal to be allowed more than the 28,000 flights it can have at the moment heard closing arguments on Wednesday.
Planning inspector David Richards will make a recommendation to the secretaries of state for transport and communities - Philip Hammond and Eric Pickles - who will then make a decision later in the year.
Geoff Marks, chairman of the Farnborough Aerodrome Residents’ Association, focused on the risk of a plane crash.
Changes to the way risk is calculated have reduced the possibility, but the method for this is not in the public domain because air traffic controller NATS has said it is commercially confidential.
It means more flights would not drastically change the area and size of the public safety zone at either end of the runway, which limits what can be built in those areas.
This is one of the most controversial issues surrounding the airport, with Mr Marks saying Rushmoor Borough Council had misunderstood planning policy about public safety.
He argued the policy was about land use for developers to follow and not to address the risk of plane crashes for airport planners.
At the inquiry, Mr Marks said that if Mr Hammond and Mr Pickles allowed the increase, they would be eroding the cautious margin of error in safety risk the council used when it granted initial planning permission for the airport in 2000.
He said: “Local residents would expect the secretaries of state, in their decision letter, to clearly present the evidence that justifies the erosion of the safety margin that Rushmoor’s members had sought to maintain in refusing TAG’s [50,000 flights] application.
“The criticism of members for having done so, voiced in evidence to this inquiry, is entirely misplaced.”
TAG appealed against the council’s refusal of its application in November, saying the councillors’ logic was not based on technical evidence.
In a statement, an airport spokesman said: “TAG Farnborough Airport is committed to making the best use of the state-of-the-art facilities which already exist at the airport.
“Our case as this appeal is built on striking a balance – a balance that takes account of environmental issues yet delivers local jobs, maintaining the important role that TAG Farnborough Airport plays in the local, regional and national economies.”