Welwyn Garden City residents launch campaign to save Panshanger Aerodrome

PUBLISHED: 11:23 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 20 September 2017

The Panshanger airfield campaign's core members (L-R) Sue Hart, Haim Merkado, Jane Quinton, Nick Coplowe. Picture credit: Peter Sterling.

The Panshanger airfield campaign's core members (L-R) Sue Hart, Haim Merkado, Jane Quinton, Nick Coplowe. Picture credit: Peter Sterling.

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Welwyn Garden City residents have this week officially launched a celebrity-backed campaign to reinstate an aerodrome in the town.

Panshanger airfield – closed since September 2014 – has been included in the borough council’s Local Plan for housing on the premise that room would be left for a relocated runway to the north of the site.

However, amid mounting fears that the local authority is not committed to providing a sustainable community airfield, local residents have banded together and launched ‘Project Phoenix’.

Among those backing the campaign are celebrity aviator and former Countdown host Carol Vorderman, Pauline Vahey from AOPA (Aircraft Owners Pilot Association) and aviation insurance group Hayward Aviation.

Local MP Grant Shapps has also thrown his weight behind the lobby group.

AOPA’s Ms Vahey said: “We will be giving them all the support and help we can to help return this valuable asset back to its role, not only in the local area but also as a national asset.”

The core team behind Project Phoenix includes Sue Hart and Haim Merkado, who both have an extensive aviation background and helped grow the aerodrome until its closure.

“The team’s vision is for a revamped Panshanger Aerodrome to raise the bar to new heights, making the aerodrome a source of delight and pleasure for both the local and aviation communities,” a campaign spokesman added.

“It will provide a positive environment for nurturing the aspirations of the younger generation as well inspiring the older generations, delivering public events and a place where experts from all fields can share a warm community atmosphere.”

The announcement comes after Sport England warned it will object to the borough council’s Local Plan if adequate space is not left for a relocated runway.

•MORE: Sport England fires warning over council’s Panshanger airfield plans

Predator Motorsport owner Colin Fitch, who is also interested in reinstating a community airfield, had previously claimed the council had misled people by overstating the room available for a realigned runway.

MORE: Airfield in doubt after ‘major blunder’ in Local Plan

A Welwyn Hatfield 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.”

*Email your thoughts to letters@whtimes.co.uk

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