Welwyn Garden City airfield in doubt after 'major blunder' in Local Plan, critic claims
PUBLISHED: 10:10 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:14 04 September 2017
Welwyn Hatfield Council has made a "major blunder" with its Local Plan by fatefully overstating the room available for an airfield, it has been claimed.
The final submission – currently being assessed by the Planning Inspectorate – included revised plans to leave room for a runway to the north of the former Panshanger Aerodrome site.
However, it has been claimed that the borough council has included 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.
Correctly excluding that patch, which is included in council diagrams, would leave just 34 metres for a runway.
Colin Fitch, one of several parties vying to purchase the site, claimed the alleged oversight has resulted in interested parties overestimating room for an airfield with the housing.
“I have spent two years of my life trying to re-establish a community airfield only to find out at this late stage there is no room,” he said. “The information they gave everyone is wrong, no one has checked it.
“All they had to do was send that picture [of the plan] to the owners of the land and ask ‘is this correct?’, and they would have said ‘no we don’t own that’.”
During the consultation phase, the council said that leaving space for a repositioned runway – highlighted green on its map – would prevent Sport England objecting to the Local Plan.
But Mr Fitch claimed Sport England’s endorsement was based on the same “misleading” diagrams that were judged by councillors and residents – which suggest Bericot Green was included in the potential space.
“As far as they were concerned there was room for a repositioned runway, but if they were shown the plans that I have now seen they would have objected,” he added.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council has not defined any area of land in the Local Plan for a replacement airfield. The only land defined in the Local Plan is in respect of the proposed housing site.
“The Local Plan does not require the formal re-provision of a grass runway. Instead it requires the masterplan for the former aerodrome site to allow the opportunity for a realigned grass runway on land north of this Green Belt boundary.
“It is for third parties to come forward with proposals for the location of a replacement runway and arrangements for its delivery.”
She added: “As to whether land at Bericot Green is required to be included within a future proposal for a replacement runway, this will be a matter for third parties to decide upon.”