FAIROAKS 2020 CALLS ON UK GOVERNMENT TO STEP IN AS IT FIGHTS TO KEEP ITS AIRFIELD
Garners industry support to keep flying
Fairoaks 2020, the volunteer campaign group fighting plans to close Fairoaks Airport to create 1,000 homes on its Green Belt site, has been swift to galvanise support from the 177-member-strong All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs and Lords for General Aviation. The APPG, led by Grant Shapps, has just added its support against the planning application, formally filed by the Fairoaks Garden Village (FGVL), the current airport owners, in October.
Fairoaks 2020 lodged its own formal objection on 23rd November to Surrey Heath, Woking and Runnymede Borough Councils and has stepped up its campaign, canvassing local residents and releasing a new Keep Fairoaks Flying video.
“We do not believe that such a large development and potential loss of 400 acres of Green Belt landscape – that could result in the closure of this strategically placed airfield to the south west of London – should be made by a local planning committee,” challenged Fairoaks 2020 Chairman Douglas Mancini.
He calls on the UK Government to act on it as a matter of urgency, warning Fairoaks Airport stands poised to become a benchmark for future decisions for general aviation and pilot training in the UK, where some 35-plus aerodromes are under threat.
In its formal objection to the planning application Fairoaks 2020 argues that the application conflicts with official policy – with Surrey Heath’s local plan clearly earmarking Fairoaks for airport use (no mention of housing.)
“The timing is significant,” states Douglas Mancini, coming ahead of the York Aviation Report, due to be presented to the UK Government’s General Aviation Champion Bryon Davis imminently. The independent report, was commissioned by the DfT to look at strategically located airfields in the UK.
York Aviation’s initial report stated that Fairoaks Airport is ‘not viable,’ but Fairoaks 2020 strongly challenges that. It is based on its current (dual) ownership structure, which could be changed, Mancini asserts. Furthermore, its recommendation that operators move to other nearby airports is flawed, he adds.
“The YA Report suggests demand could be met from other London airports, but this is incorrect. There is now only one airport in the London area, London Southend, available for use overnight, without any restrictions. In neighbouring Hampshire, Farnborough Airport (serving primarily VIP jets) is not interested in general aviation. Its fees do not suit the general aviation sector either. Redhill is under threat. Blackbushe Airport may not get the permission it seeks for its expansion. Denham Aerodrome, which YA recommends could also take up Fairoaks’ movements, is busy with fixed wing and helicopter GA activity,” he adds.
Amy Paul, General Manager of Denham Aerodrome comments. “Denham does not have the capacity to absorb aircraft displaced from Fairoaks. Nor could it accept businesses that require hangarage.” (Fairoaks’ runway is also longer than Denham’s and only has grass taxiways, meaning it can’t handle as many types as Fairoaks.)
“If someone is assuming that aircraft would relocate from Fairoaks to Denham then they are failing to appreciate the reasons people use aviation. For example, if someone has to drive an extra 45 minutes to get to a different aerodrome many people will not use that option. Instead they will stop flying. We saw this first hand with the closure of Hatfield Airport, and again at Panshanger a few years ago.”
When an aerodrome is closed, a part of the national infrastructure is lost, the network suffers, and the whole UK aviation industry suffers,” she warns.
“Fairoaks Airport contributes far more economic value to the local economy than York Aviation states and with a new forward-thinking investor group, this airport would thrive,” Douglas Mancini believes.
Fairoaks 2020 challenges that closing strategic aerodromes in the country restricts the number of essential landing sites for cross country navigational flights, so necessary for cadets to gain a pilot’s licence. It is also at odds with the acute future global demand for pilots.