Sport England fires warning over Welwyn Hatfield Council's Panshanger airfield plans

PUBLISHED: 12:09 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:15 14 September 2017

Panshanger Aerodrome from the air, Photo by Peter Sterling.

Panshanger Aerodrome from the air, Photo by Peter Sterling.

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Sport England has fired a warning shot at Welwyn Hatfield Council over its plans for Panshanger Aerodrome in WGC.

Land owned by Mariposa Investments on the former Panshanger Aerodrome site, notably excluding Bericot Green (circled red). It will leave just 34 metres to the Green Belt boundry - space which has been earmarked for a realigned runway. Picture credit Mariposa Investments.Land owned by Mariposa Investments on the former Panshanger Aerodrome site, notably excluding Bericot Green (circled red). It will leave just 34 metres to the Green Belt boundry - space which has been earmarked for a realigned runway. Picture credit Mariposa Investments.

The Government body – which carries formidable clout in planning processes – has told the borough council it will object to the Local Plan proposals if a realigned runway is not proved to be “feasible and deliverable”.

It follows claims that the local authority made a “major blunder” by including a plot of land known as Bericot Green – which backs onto the site and is privately owned – as part of space earmarked for the relocated runway.

•MORE: Welwyn Garden City airfield in doubt after ‘major blunder’

If correctly excluded, critics claim, it will leave just 34 metres for a runway – rather than the 166 metres previously thought.

A Sport England spokesman told the WHT: “We have consistently resisted the loss of the aerodrome unless provision is made in the Local Plan for retaining or replacing the aerodrome facilities.

“In the pre-submission version of the Local Plan, the council proposed to make provision for a realigned runway.

“We advised that we would have preferred the retention of the existing airfield layout rather than realigning the runway.

“If this was not possible, the principle of realigning the runway would be supported provided that it was both feasible and deliverable, something that would require detailed feasibility work.”

The WHT understands that study has not yet taken place.

Predator Motorsport owner Colin Fitch, who wants to reinstate a community airfield at the site, previously claimed the council had misled people by overstating the room available for a realigned runway.

He claimed that as a result, Sport England and other interested parties then declined to object to the council’s plans for around 700 homes on the rest of the site.

However, the Sport England spokesman added: “It would not have been appropriate for us to give an opinion on whether sufficient space had been allocated for a realigned runway until this feasibility work had been completed.

“If the work shows that it is not possible then we will object to the masterplan.

“We will be attending the Local Plan hearing, and the feasibility of delivering a realigned runway will be raised to ensure that the inspector gives it appropriate consideration when making his recommendations.”

A borough council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of Sport England’s concerns and anticipate that the matter will be debated in more detail during the examination hearing sessions.”

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