Grant Shapps denies using public money to block building on airfields

Grant Shapps in Downing Street, London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffles his Cabinet to ap

Grant Shapps was accused of setting up the Airfield Advisory Team with public money. - Credit: PA

Grant Shapps has denied using public money to set up a lobbying group to protect airfields from development.

The claims against the transport secretary were made by The Sunday Times, with the newspaper reporting the Airfield Advisory Team disrupted plans for 3,000 homes at Chalgrove, a south Oxfordshire airfield, while also expressing opposition to a potential battery gigafactory on Coventry airport.

Responding to the claims, Welwyn Hatfield MP Shapps said The Sunday Times had ‘misinterpreted’ the purpose of the AAT.

“The Sunday Times has misrepresented the work of the Airfield Advisory Team,” he said.

“It does not lobby other parts of the government, it is set up to provide advice and support to airfields, on a range of matters.

“General aviation supports 40,000 jobs across the country and, with a declining number of airfields in the UK, it is vital that we work with those still in operation to support them.

“I take a keen interest in the aviation sector like I take a keen interest in all aspects of UK transport. I cycle, I drive, I take the train, and I have a pilot’s license. It’s given me a lot of insight into the challenges the sector faces, just like taking the train, driving on our roads, and cycling around Welwyn Hatfield does the same for the other important parts of my brief.

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“Through the AAT, we’re supporting a sector of 40,000 jobs and a contribution of £4 billion to the UK economy. It’s a sector where future talent, emerging tech and new safety standards are born.

“Innovations in general aviation are leading the way for the rest of the industry. Many of the people involved in general aviation go on to become the commercial pilots of tomorrow.

“Are we providing pilots and airfields with money to lobby government? Again, no. We had an Airfield Development Advisory Fund which provided support on a range of issues including science and engineering training, developing electric aircraft, and preserving heritage aircraft. Applicants were able to seek advice relevant to their operations, like safety or business management.

“My job as transport secretary, and the job of the Department for Transport, is to promote and support transport in all its forms. I’m proud we’ve been able to help this sector with advice and support, as we do with other transport sectors.

“It’s one of the many ways we’re keeping to our commitment to level up Britain’s transport network, and it’s what we will continue to do.”

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