Planning Background

 

The real questions Evolution needs to answer

 

A letter from Charlotte Morgan ( in response to a letter from Steve Bainbridge  Link)

 

Dear Sir,

Re planning application in respect of Bentwaters for change in use and flying

We are in receipt of the revised information which evolution planning has forwarded to all consultees and in the interests of securing a balanced debate would wish to make the following observations on the six points raised in Stephen Bainbridge's letter of 20th May.

On the issue of what is currently situated at the site, the planning authorities will no doubt note that the planning application in the conditions it puts forward doesn't seek to constrain the types of aircraft, nor the types of activity which are carried out by those aircraft nor the noise which will be generated by that activity.  Therefore whether or not the aircraft which are currently situated there can perform aerobatic manoeuvres or not is not relevant, clearly some can and clearly there is no intention to restrict the activity in any condition proposed by the applicant.  In the south of the county at one airfield the planning consent clearly only allows for gliders, their website clearly advertises that this is a gliding only facility and makes it clear it is not open for other types of aircraft.  Conversely Bentwaters markets itself as having 1.3 miles of well maintained runway, not the farm landing strip which Air Leasing refers to in its literature.

It should also be remembered that the planning application runs with the land and is not personal to the user and therefore what may be kept there at the date of the application is irrelevant for the purposes of considering the planning application unless the conditions make it clear that no other type of aircraft can be kept there.

Evolution planning has made much of the assertion that the planning application is to regularise existing use in every statement given to the press and now in this response to consultees.  However no evidence of existing use has been provided by the applicant.  Recent visits to Bentwaters control tower reveal very few flights indeed, nothing like the 960 air movements requested.  Nor does the Bentwater's control tower have any logs relating to the use of the spitfire or other aircraft owned or operated by Air Leasing Limited.   Indeed the logs belonging to the spitfire and Air Leasing Limited are not available for public view and despite repeated requests have not been produced, and evolution planning has responded to requests from some consultees that there is no requirement to make these available.  How are the planning authorities to assess the assertion made by the applicant as to what is requested in the application represents existing use when no evidence is forthcoming.

The applicant seeks to make the distinction between General Aviation and Civil Aviation as a means of seeking to distinguish the existing inspectors reports as not relevant.  Again this is an attempt by the applicant to create a distinction which is not recognised by the Civil Aviation Authority, who recognise two types of flying activity civil and military.  Civil aviation is further sub categorised into freight, scheduled and general aviation.  General aviation includes private jets (including Roman Abranovitch's 380), heritage aircraft, microlights, gliders etc.  The inspector would have known that general aviation was a category of civil aviation and therefore when he said no flying, he meant no flying of any sort, as he knew that planning permission once given could not control the noise generated by planes.

The applicant further makes a distinction between military aircraft which come from other locations, such as RAF bases and other general aviation.  Their presence is not restricted, a fact which is understood, but its impacts cannot be controlled by this application in any event.  The point of objection to this application is that it will augment was is currently an infrequent occurrence with daily flying from the base as well.

There is a oft repeated, but never evidenced assertion that the owners and operators of Bentwaters stop additional flying activity in this area, whilst at the same time asserting that no-one can control it.  This is a highly muddled assertion and without evidence is unconvincing and cannot be relied on as justification for allowing the very activity which it is argued Air Leasing will prevent.

Reading these assertions, one is left with the impression that the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is to be ruined for the enjoyment of three pilots sole pleasure.  This is an extraordinary claim and demonstrates quite succinctly that there is no public interest in this permission being granted.

The final point which Evolution planning make is that there will be an average of 1.26 flights a day.  This is incorrect.  The request is for 960 movements a year.  Movements are take offs and landings.  The issue of flights a day is not relevant as a plane could take off one day and come back several days later.  Furthermore as is accepted in the application once a plane is airborne it can stay aloft creating noise for many hours at a time, as the planes currently do when performing aerobatic manoeuvres.

This latest set of arguments put forward by the applicants is merely a list of assertions and provides no evidence which the planning authority can rely on.  We would urge the planning authorities to reject the application as being wholly without merit.

Charlotte Morgan

Tunstall Common

 

 

Letter from Steve Bainbridge

 

Dear Consultee,

Please see attached a letter sent to Suffolk Coastal District Council today. The letter rounds up many of the issues of concern which members of the public have written to the Council in relation to the Bentwaters planning application.

It will appear on the Council’s website shortly where it will be publicly accessible. This response is detailed so in summary we make the following 6 points:

  • Part of the planning application proposes the use of two buildings to house 8 heritage display aircraft which operate from the site. An allowance is also made for a few visiting aircraft each year. Of the 8 airplanes which are described in the application, 5 could not be reasonably described as ‘aerobatic’;
  • The planning application does not propose an airport. The amount of flying which is included in the planning application reflects existing levels of flying that has taken place over previous years;
  • The 1999 Local Plan Inspector was not against flying in general from Bentwaters but was against a regional airport and ‘Civil Aviation’ in particular. These proposals represent ‘General Aviation’ – a lesser order of aviation activity and an important distinction the 1999 Local Plan Inspector was well aware of when he reported on ‘Civil Aviation’ not ‘General Aviation’
  • The area around Bentwaters and the AONB is already well used by military aircraft based at RAF Mildenhall, RAF Lakenheath, RAF Woodbridge and RAF Wattisham and by private pilots. The area around Bentwaters and beyond is in open air space; any pilot can come to the area from elsewhere and fly. Only those with the landowners permission can land at Bentwaters (the understandable exception being someone with a genuine emergency). Pilots are governed by what are known as the Rules of the Air which are enforced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and not by planning rules. If the Council or members of the public are unaware of CAA Regulation then they might be interested in the recently opened General Aviation Unit of the CAA. The CAA states that “the new unit will improve efficiency and create greater transparency and accountability” for General Aviation;
  • Having a small number of airplanes based at Bentwaters has had the benefit of reducing the number of airplanes from elsewhere coming to the area to fly in ways that are less considerate than the pilots based at Bentwaters. The owners and operators at Bentwaters are able to warn off regular leisure flyers and aerobatic display teams because of the existing flying from the site. They have done this on several occasions over recent years;
  • The level of flying proposed from Bentwaters is therefore low at an average of 1.26 flights a day.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call me and I would be happy to answer them.

Regards,

Steven Bainbridge MSc MRTPI

Associate

Evolution Town Planning LLP

 

 

SCDC concerns

The letter below from Steve Milligan, senior planning officer of SCDC planning services, was written in response to the initial application made on behalf of Bentwaters Parks by their agents Evolution.  It underlines many of the SCDC concerns as it wrestles with the difficulty of controlling flying with in a planning framework (a position BCG believes to be impossible!).  Read against the revised application, it is noticeable how many of Mr Milligan's concerns have not been properly or fully addressed.  Please help support the SCDC in your letter to the council, expressing your concerns as to what ruling can be made that would prevent flying or the growth of flying at Bentwaters, particularly in the longer view (for example, if the airport should change ownership).

 

Mr Steven Bainbridge
Evolution Town Planning
Prospect House
Elm Farm Park
Thurston
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk
IP31 3SH

Please ask for:Mr S Milligan
Direct Dial: (01394) 444416
E-mail address: steve.milligan@Suffolkcoastal.gov.uk
Our Ref:C10/3239
Your Ref: E197/E198

 

 

12th June 2013

Dear Mr Bainbridge

 

THE TOWN & COUNTRY PLANNING (ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT) (ENGLAND AND WALES) REGULATIONS 2011 : REGULATION 13 REQUEST FOR SCOPING OPINION.
FLYING ACTIVITY, BENTWATERS PARK, RENDLESHAM.

I write in response to your letter and attachments of 26th November 2012 and subsequent correspondence and must apologise for the delay in the Council’s reply on this issue.

Since your letter of 15th February 2013, the Environment Agency have written (28th March) to confirm that the issues raised within their response to the scoping request can be appropriately addressed through the production of a ‘site management/environmental management plan’ which could be the subject of a condition of an approval of C10/3239.

In both your e-mail of 7th December 2012 and your letter of 15th February, you appear to be suggesting that the amendments to the building use schedule and clarification of the (proposed) level of flying activity do not need to be included into the scope of the existing EIA; however I believe that it must be and under the terms of Para 22, Part 5 of the Town and Country Planning (EIA) regulations 2011, be the subject of further publicity/consultation. C10/3239 was subject to EIA and the subsequent amendment proposed and submission of ‘further information’ falls under this section of the 2011 Regulations.

In relation to the detail/level of information submitted, I had previously suggested that information should be provided in respect of intensification of flying activity and impact upon tranquillity, and still consider that these remain areas that should be covered, given the condition you have so far advocated would in no way control the number, size or type of aircraft or hours of use; with potentially significant impact upon residential and rural amenity/tranquillity. The Sharps report is clearly based on there being no significant change in the number of flights or type of aircraft. It does not consider the impact upon tranquillity within the wider AONB. Whilst part of Para 123 of the NPPF is quoted in relation to impact upon ‘health and the quality of life’; the same part of the NPPF states that decisions should aim to ‘identify and protect areas of tranquillity which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.’ The Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB is one such area, with the ‘Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Management Plan’ stating that the area is ‘prized for a feeling of peace and tranquillity and for its outstanding wildlife’ and that ‘future development within the AONB must recognise the essential value of tranquillity and build in solutions that respect this special quality.’

The EIA Circular 02/99 states in relation to ‘Information to be Included in an Environmental Statement’

(amongst other matters):

  • An outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant or appellant and an indication of the main reasons for his choice, taking into account the environmental effects.
  • A description of the aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected by the development, including, in particular, population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between the above factors.
  • A description of the likely significant effects of the development on the environment, which should cover the direct effects and any indirect, secondary, cumulative, short, medium and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects of the development, resulting from:

a. the existence of the development;

b. the use of natural resources;

c. the emission of pollutants, the creation of nuisances and the elimination of waste,

and the description by the applicant of the forecasting methods used to assess the effects on

the environment.

  • A description of the measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and where possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment.

This gives rise to the following questions which should be addressed:

  1. Why do the 8 display aircraft (and Spitfire) need to be based in this location?
  2. What will be the impact upon tranquillity and ecology?
  3. What measures (conditions?) will prevent /reduce impact on tranquillity?

I must state at this stage my disappointment with the inclusion of this amendment late in the consideration of C10/3239, given you state that the aircraft housed in building 669 ’have been operating from the site for approximately 4 years’; which pre-dates the submission of C10/3239 and the EIA, which made reference to only a single spitfire flying from the site. The position of the Council to defer enforcement action in 2009 to allow your client to prepare and submit an application for authorisation of activities at the site, was taken in good faith and I believed that the information and use schedule you submitted with C10/3239 was comprehensive and correct. For this to be shown otherwise is clearly disappointing.

If you intend to formally submit the ‘amendment’ you would be advised to submit evidence in respect of the level of flying activity undertaken in the last few years, including flight logs; as well as address the points raised within this letter.

As you are aware the matter of flying from the site has been the subject of ‘local interest’ and whilst it has not yet been the subject of public consultation by this authority, a number of bodies have expressed interest including Eyke and Melton Parish Council; The National Trust and the RSPB. The RSPB have commented in writing (objected) and have requested an assessment of impact of flying upon ornithological interest within the site and adjacent/nearby Designated Habitat. I attach a copy of the letter received from the RSPB.

As you are aware, I have been concerned at the cost implications to this Council of further public consultation and for any more publicity/consultation to be undertaken only one more time. As stated above, there is a need to consult on the ‘amendment’ and the further changes to the proposed rights of way; but clearly I do not wish to undertake this if further information is to be forthcoming in respect of the above matters and any further information submitted in respect of the RSPB comments. I would also like assurance that there will be no more ‘amendments’ necessitating consultation (unless this is as a result of a request from this Authority). As it stands, the ‘amendments’ have not, I believe, been formally submitted for consideration, but were submitted for ‘scoping’. Please clarify/confirm whether you (your clients) wish for these to be formally submitted as an amendment to C10/3239 and whether you will be preparing the further information to cover the above matters and those of the RSPB.

Given the support of members of the DCC to limited ‘incidental’ business flying only and the desirability of a favourable outcome to application C10/3239, I would suggest that your client seriously re-considers the ‘proposed’ use of building 669 and its use by 8 display/aerobatic aircraft, as I believe this goes beyond the level of flying activity envisaged by members during the DCC meeting in September and may well (if formally submitted and publicised) give rise to significant local concern over the impact upon the tranquillity of the AONB.

Yours sincerely,

Head of Planning Services

 

 

The Bentwaters decision

 

In 1999 H M inspectorate officer George Mapson ruled out flying at Bentwaters mainly on the grounds that once flying was allowed, it became impossible to control the numbers of behaviour of aircraft that would use the air base.  This is a summary of his judgement.  Nothing has changed since his judgement - except perhaps the successful growth of the tourist industry in the AONB and the growth of non-aviatiion job creating activity at Bentwaters itself!!

 


 

 

 

The Planning Inspectorate

 

Room2/02DirectLine0117-9878887
ToilgateHouseSwitchboard0117-9878000
HoultonStreetFaxNo0117-987
BnstolBS2901GTN1374

 

 

TheChief Executive
Suffolk Coastal District Council
Melton Hill
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12lAU

 

Dear Sir

 

SUFFOLK COASTAL LOCAL PLAN FIRST ALTERATION REPORT ON OBJECTIONS

 

Preliminaries

 

l . I was appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to hold a Public Inquiry into objections to the Deposit Draft of the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan First Alteration. The Inquiry was held between l0 November 1998 and 31 March 1999 and sat for 20 days. Before, during and after the Inquiry, I held a series of accompanied and unaccompanied site visits to all the sites that were the subject of objection, as well as those referred to in evidence.

 

Procedural Matters

2. In February 1998 the County Planning Authority issued a statement to the effect that the draft Plan is in general conformity with the Suffolk County Structure Plan, incorporating Alterations 1, 2, and 3. The Plan was placed on deposit m March 1998 with a closing date for objections 6 weeks later.

 

Inquiry statistics

3. A total of 2027 representations have been received. The Council accepted 1648 as duly made
within the 6-week deposit period , including 23 late representations. A further 379 were made to the published Proposed Changes.

4. There were 1380 objections and 334 counter-objections to specific aspects of the Plan, a total of 1714. Of the remainder, 305 representations supported the Plan and 8 were classified as general comments. By the close of the Inquiry, 77 objections had been unconditionally withdrawn. This left 1637 for me to consider, of which 523 had been conditionally withdrawn.

 

Proposed Changes

5.  After assessing the objections made, the Council published in July 1998 a list of 197 Proposed Changes to the policies and proposals (CD/A9). During the course of the Inquiry 65 Further Changes were put forward. As some of these superseded earlier changes, a composite list Plan order was published in March 1999 (CD/A6 l).

6. I cannot consider changes that have been suggested as an update of the Plan unless they are subject to a counter-objection. These additional changes are entirely a matter for the Council. The same applies to any changes made in response to objections that have subsequently been withdrawn completely. I have taken account of the representations made in support of the Plan and general comments made. However. they are not the subject of this report and do not appear in the listings under each policy or paragraph that I have considered.

Format of the Draft Plan

7. The Plan contains two types of policy . Part One (Chapters 1-8) contains general topic policies . Part Two (Chapters 9-14) contains site specific policies.

Format of my Report

8. My full Report will be in three Volumes. I use the term Volume rather than Part to avoid confusion wiiith the Plan which is divided into two Parts.

• VOLUME ONE: THE MILITARY SITES
This Volume deals with the objections to the policies found in Chapter 10 for re-use of the millitary airbases at RAF Woodbridge and the former RAF Bentwaters (also referred to as the Rendlesham IWantisden Military Base). It also deals with an objection to the omission of a policy relating to re-use of land at the former RAF establishment at Bawdsey Manor.

• VOLUME TWO: GENERAL AND AREA POLICIES [EXCLUDING THE MILITARY SITESJ
This Volume deals with objections to all other policies, including other policies in Chapter 10.

• VOLUME THREE: APPENDICES
This Volume includes (i) an index of all representations in alphabetical order of name; (ii) a list
of appearances at the inquiry and the documents submitted; and (iii) a list of Core Documents .

9. I have submitted Volumes One and Three at this stage because the Council asked for an early announcement of my conclusions and recommendations on the policies for the military bases. Work is proceeding on Volume Two and it will be submitted in February 2000.

I0.  In general, my Report follows the order of the Plan's written statement. It has been prepared in the shortened form, which means that I do not set out in detail the cases either for the objectors or for the Council. These appear in the written representations and statements of evidence to the Inquiry library. But I do emphasise that I have read all representations in full before arriving at my conclusions and recommendations.

11. Under the sub-heading of each policy or paragraph to which an objection has been made, I have listed the objection number and the objector 's name. In a few cases I have had to split objections because they relate to more than one policy or paragraph. These are annotated. Below the objections are listed the reference numbers of the Council's rebuttal statements. This is followed by a list of any Proposed Changes, counter-objections or Further Changes. An asterisk [*] against objection number indicates that it is conditionally withdrawn subject to the Plan being modified in accordance with a Proposed Change.

12. Under Issues I summarise what I perceive to be the main points of objection, grouped as appropriate. I begin by setting out any objections to the general principle of the policy. This is followed by the objections to specific points, often by reference to the relevant paragraph or criterion within the policy.

13. Next, I set out my Reasoning and Conclusions. These are dealt with in an integrated manner, rather than separately, referring where necessary to the cases. On particularly lengthy or complex matters with multiple issues, I have included a summary of my conclusions.

14. These lead to a Recommendation either to modify the Plan in a specified way or that no modification should be made. In most cases I have supported the Council ‘s Proposed Changes where these have been put forward.  In the few cases where I have not supported the Proposed Changes, I have given my reasons.

 

Changing circumstances and national planning policy guidance.

15 The Council will need to take into account any changes in local planning circumstances since the close of the Inquiry when considering my recommendations. They should take account of any new PPGs, Circulars or other departmental advice to ensure that the Plan ‘s policies and proposals fit with the Government’s w1der planning objectives.

 

General matters

16 A few general remarks about the Plan as a whole. First, general layout and presentation. I appreciate the difficulties in devising a format for an “Alteration ” document because of the need to compare directly the text of the existing Local Plan with the proposed alterations. I found the format helpful in that respect. I assume that the final version of the Plan will be a composite of both documents in a single volume .

17. I suggest that the Council consider making some changes to the paragraph and sentence structure. In a long document large blocks of text can be daunting to readers.  It helps to break up paragraphs into separate points and use shorter, simpler sentences. These changes would help readers by placing less strain on their memories, thus making the message easier to grasp.

18 Second, communicating the message clearly and concisely.  A Local Plan should use words with precise meanings that are readily understood.  It is very important that the Plan makes clear from the beginning the nature, scope and purpose of each policy. Readers can then easily relate policy to practice.

19. I found some shortcomings in this respect. For example, the Plan fails to define precisely the type and scale of the airport development that the Council would permit at Bentwaters.This makes understanding the Plan unnecessarily difficult for readers. They are left to guess what level of development – and what level of harm – would be acceptable, and when the future of acceptability would be reached

20. Hedging an issue, by using terms that seem less alarming than others, might appear to be a safer option than being precise . But such use of language has the disadvantage of being open to wide interpretation.  The temptation to use vague words or phrases should be resisted because they either have no meaning or they have an ambiguous meaning. The danger in using them that where there is ambiguity someone is likely to misunderstand. I have therefore taken care to avoid any ambiguity in the main conclusions and recommendations of my Report.

Main conclusions and recommendations in Volume One

21 Although this Volume deals with three military sites, the subject that aroused the most diverse local and national public interest bas been the proposal to permit a civil airport at the former RAFBentwaters . The key policies are LP 14l .3 and LP 141.4.

22 The Inquiry sessions that heard objections to those policies were the most fully attended of all. This seems to reflect the concern that many local people have about the prospect of flying activities returning to the base after a 6 or 7-year absence.

23 The inquiry was conducted against the background of a planning application submitted by Suffolk Business Airport Limited. This proposed a change of use of the former airbase to a civil aviation airport and re-use of some buildings for airport operational use. The application had been submitted before the Pre-inquiry Meeting [PIM] in July 1998.  It was clearly uppermost in the minds of many objectors to, and supporters of, the airport development throughout the course of the inquiry. It remained undetermined until after the Inquiry sessions on the objections to Policies LP 141 3 and 141.4.

24 Planning permission was eventually refused m January 1999, but the applicant has been invited to submit an amended application of a substantially reduced scale – one that would accord with the criteria and controls set out in Policies LP 14l J and LP 14 l.4.

25 I raise this matter to confirm – as I did at the PIM and the Inquiry – that my remit has been to examine the objections to the Local Plan policies and not concern myself with the detail of that proposed scheme.

26 The fact that the planning application had been made had benefits and drawbacks for the Inquiry. On the negative side, it resulted in a tendency for objections to the policies to develop into a criticism of the specifics of that scheme. Similarly, some people and organisations that had made representations on the planning application also wished to object belatedly to the policies. They were disappointed to discover that the period for such representations had closed and that their views could not be taken into account.

27. On the positive side, the application proved helpful to the inquiry by presenting a real case against which to test the robustness of the policies. Rather than speculate about the type of airport development that the policies ought have to deal with, it provided an authentic example. This served to focus the minds of all participants on the practical aspects of applying these policies. It also prompted a number of consultants reports and professional opinions on a variety of topics.

28 The Council responded to all the issues raised, acknowledging the merits of some arguments by putting forward several Proposed Changes to meet objectors ‘ concerns. Its rebuttal statements and committee reports were subjected to rigorous examination. This examination served to highlight the difficulties that the Council has faced m formulating its policy. It also emphasised some shortcomings in its approach to the airport development.

29 The main shortcomings were as follows. First, as I have mentioned, the lack of a clear, unambiguous statement on the type and scale of airport that the Council would permit. Second, the lack of a realistic or effective strategy for imposing controls over aircraft movements and ground based activities. Third, a lack of appreciation of the full extent of harm that a c1vtl airport could cause in this sensitive location.

30. The Council’s starting point was to seek to mitigate the adverse local economic effects of base closure and maximise the potential of the base for regeneration. Less weight was given to factors such as the highly sensitive location of the site and the social, economic and environmental impact on·the wider community .

31. As regards location, the site lies within an area of national importance where special statutory designations apply. This area enjoys a high status of protection in terms of landscape and scenic beauty, and wildlife habitats. Government advice makes it clear that the siting of major commercial development in these areas is inconsistent with aims of designation and only a proven national need and lack of alternative sites can justify an exception. Neither exception applies here.

32. There are no other exceptional circumstances to support a new civil airport. The base is one of many wartime airfields in this part of the country. Those airfields were built at a tune when the greater national need outweighed local c1V1han interests. Today there is no national, regional or even sub-regional need for an airport m this location . Other considerations take priority

33 Clearly, Bentwaters has a number of assets. It has a long runway, taxiways and several buildings and structures, some of which might be suitable for use by civil aircraft and associated activities. It is close to a new, developing settlement that could accommodate some of its workforce.

34 But the site is poorly located in relation to its catchment area. It has poor links to the trunk road network and none to the rail network . With such constraints, it ts difficult to imagine how the airport could develop and expand – as any major commercial enterprise would wish to do – without improvements to its transport infrastructure. Yet, as the Council recognizes, the visual impact of any new link road to the A 12 would compound the environmental harm caused by the development and would be wholly unacceptable in this location.

35. The economic benefits that are sought must be seen in the context of a recovering local economy and low unemployment. Furthermore, there is uncertainty over scale of the economic benefits that might accrue.

36. If the airport were to be a genuine low-intensity use, it is unlikely to offer much employment potential. If its commercial success were to rely on specialist areas of work, such as aircraft engineering, again it 1s unlikely to offer much local employment – at least m the short term – because there is no skills base locally in this field.

37. If its success were to rely on a large throughput of scheduled, feeder, charter or cargo flights, recreational flying and training or aircraft maintenance services, it might offer greater employment opportunities. But the inevitable increase in noise, disturbance and traffic that would be generated would undoubtedly have a negative impact on other local business – particularly on tourism and the Snape Maltings complex – and on quality of life of local people .

38 On the evidence before me this is not a case where the issues for and against a proposal are finely balanced. Nor is it one where conditions or planning obligations could provide the necessary safeguards to overcome the harm that would be caused. It is clear to me that any economic benefits to the local area that might accrue from a new civilian airport are plainly outweighed by the costs to the wider surrounding area in economic , social and environmental terms.

39. I have therefore concluded that the use of the Former RAF Bentwaters base for civil aviation is unacceptable. My conclusions are set out in full at paragraphs 327 – 352 of my report. I have recommended that the Plan 5hould be modified by DELETING parts of Policy LP141.3 and re wording the remainder, and by DELETING the whole of Policy LP141.4, part of paragraph 10.19.14 and the whole of paragraphs 10.19.15 – 10.19.27 of the supporting text.

40. I know that this recommendation will disappoint both the District and County Councils, the prospective developers of the airport and other supporters of the scheme. I am aware that some members and officers of both Councils regard an airport development as pivotal in securing economic benefits to the area and enabling the development of a sustainable settlement at the Bentwaters base. I do not share that view Although securing economic benefits for the community l5 a laudable aim. thereis no evidence to suggest that these benefits could be delivered only by an airport development. Other, less intrusive and harmful options for re-using the base should be explored and I do urge the Council to carefully consider its response to all the recommendations that I have made. The retention of these policies. especially LP141.4, would diminish public confidence and reduce the effectiveness of what is an otherwise commendable Loc2.I Plan. It would also undermine the ultimate objective of improving life for all sectors of the community of the District.

 

Acknowledgements

42. I would like to thank all participants for their hard work and co-operation in ensuring the smooth
running of the inquiry.

43 First, the Council . I appreciate the contributions made by the planning staff of the District and County Councils. Not only did they competently present their evidence to the Inquiry, but also they ensured that their statements – often prepared at short notice – were thorough and generally wellreasoned . They made a concerted effort to keep to the programme and provide the relevant documents on tune.

44. It was clear to me that a great deal of thought and hard work had gone into the production of the Plan and the Council’s evidence to the inquiry. It was also evident that the officers have made genuine efforts to accommodate the views of objectors wherever possible . Their high level of commitment andprofessional expertise is a credit to the Council and the residents of the District.

45. I would also like to record my gratitude to the Council’s legal team for its valuable contribution to the Inquiry. I would particularly like to express my appreciation for the courtesy shown by the Council’s advocates to objectors, many of whom were unrepresented and unfamiliar with Inquiry protocol.

46. Second, the objectors and supporters. The planning process is there to ensure that people affected by proposals for change can have their views considered. I was impressed by the quality of contributions from those who put forward their views . Much time and effort had been spent on researching topics and preparing evidence. Without the effort and interest expressed – from individual residents to large organisations – the policies and proposals would not have been properly tested . This would have been to the detriment of the final adopted version of the Plan.

47. Third, the public. I was pleased to see so much public interest throughout the Inquiry . I hope that the experience of those who attended will encourage their continued active involvement m the local planning process .

48. My final thanks go to Mrs. Ann Pilgrim, the Programme Officer who was employed by the Council. From the beginning of this process she has ably undertaken the formidable task of organising the programme, the inquiry library, and listing and distributing all the documents . She has put m a great deal of hard and conscientious work to ensure that the Inquiry ran efficiently and has been a point of contact during the Reporting process . I appreciate her expertise and dedication. and wish her well in her new duties.

Yours faithfully

George Mapson
Inspector

 

Stour and Orwell Society appears at the Stansted G1 Inquiry

 
The Society's Honorary Treasurer, Stephen M Clark, presented the following submission to the planning inspectors appointed by the Government to consider Uttlesford District Council's refusal of BAA application to increase flights by 170 per day increasing the use of Stansted from 25 million to 35 million passengers a year.
 
The submission was made into week 10 of the inquiry held at Sudbury Town Hall on Tuesday 4th september 2007.
 
1. The Stour and Orwell Society
 

The Society was formed to protect and enhance a peninsula of land bounded by the estuaries of the River Stour and River Orwell in south Suffolk.  The area is known as the Stour and Orwell Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and together with the adjacent Special Project Area forms part of the Suffolk Coast and Heath Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is located adjacent to the Dedham Vale AONB. The area has significant statutory recognition as follows; 

 

a) As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) it forms part of only four designated AONB’s in the six counties of the Eastern Region (see map 1).

 

b) The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was signed in Ramsar, Iran as an inter-government treaty for the conservation and protection of bird life.  This covers both estuaries and as such provides an international designation protecting internationally renowned wildlife and wetland areas.  As well as an international designation, the salt marsh fringed estuaries contain some of Britain’s most important wildlife areas.

 

 c) The area contains above average sites of Special Scientific Interest, conservation areas, ancient woodland, listed buildings and historic parkland. 

 

The Society, with over 200 members, was formed to protect and enhance the natural assets of our area, but there has been a groundswell of outrage relating to the over-flying of the peninsular by air traffic, routed in and out of Stansted and Luton airports, which never existed before March 2004. 

 
2. Stour and Orwell AONB Characteristics
 
The AONB presents an unchanged sense of the English Countryside which it is designed to protect and enhance.” (Ref:  Natural England).  The area is characterised by reed beds, salt marsh and mudflats of the Stour and Orwell estuaries which, together with a rich mixture of undulating and vulnerable lowland landscapes, make the area unique.
 

The area provides for quiet recreation with the rural economy based on both agriculture and tourism.  The quiet recreation is not only enjoyed by residents but also by many UK and International visitors who come to enjoy bird watching, walking, cycling, angling with sailing and boating pursuits available on the estuaries and inland at Alton Water Reservoir. 

 

The rural tranquillity enjoyed by residents and visitors alike up to March 2004 was significantly valued. In the Rural White Paper 2000 the Government recognised the contribution of tranquillity to the character of the countryside. So concerned at the increased disturbance, members of the Society asked Douglas Sharps to make an assessment of our own tranquillity.  Mr Sharps runs one of the largest acoustic consultancies in the UK, known as the Sharps Redmore Partnership and lives on the peninsula.  He has given evidence at over 300 planning enquiries into nuisance involving noise, most often related to noise from aviation. 

He carried out noise tests within the AONB, his findings showed that the background noise was frequently at 35 dB and that only the sound of whispering grass was audible on his acoustic recording apparatus.  Over-flying aircraft noise was recorded at 60 dB which he described as a medium frequency rumble or roar with sometimes a crackle from certain aircraft types.  One of the chief characteristics of this noise, that he noted, was the unrelenting nature of the noise which, on several occasions, he found to be continuous or almost continuous due to the number of flyover events but also due to the low background noise, meaning the aircraft could be heard from long distances and at high altitudes.   

 
3. Current levels of over-flying of the Stour and Orwell Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
 

Up until the change of routing introduced by NATS in March 2004, the tranquillity of the area was not undermined by aircraft noise.

 

The change to the airspace in March 2004 by NATS was to relieve heavy traffic on the Clacton Beacon (see map 2 based on Stansted flight data, 3rd August 2003 before the change) and to reduce the effects on the western area of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  Indeed, Suffolk  County  Council’s  response  to  NATS  consultation  on  the  new  routes,   dated 27th June 2003, was “The emphasis placed on reducing noise disturbance on the Dedham Vale AONB in framing these proposals is welcomed.  The routing of the majority of flights inbound to Stansted and Luton from continental Europe to the north of Ipswich rather than to the south via the Clacton Beacon should significantly reduce the over-flying of the Vale”. 

 

In March 2004 a new entry route into Stansted (see map 3 based on Stansted flight data, 15th August 2004 after the change) was from IDESI to the LAPRA way point, north of Ipswich.  However, the vast majority of flights were ignoring the new route and were being directed into Stansted and Luton airports over the Stour and Orwell AONB and Dedham Vale AONB.

 

Quite clearly something had seriously gone wrong with the new flight paths since they were having environmental consequences that were never predicted or consulted upon by NATS.  Whilst NATS had designed the route north of Ipswich to IDESI, a route approved by the Secretary of State, unfortunately it transpired that the air traffic controllers were not bound by the statutory protection of areas on the ground.

The Dedham Vale Society appealed to the High Court over the fact that 90% of the traffic was going over the Dedham Vale (and over the Stour and Orwell ANOB), rather than taking the approved route north of Ipswich. 

 

In the court case much evidence was provided.  For example I was able to hear 38 flights over my house between 7.00 pm and 8.30 pm on the 5th June 2005 (ie. 1 plane every 2.3 minutes) and this was corroborated by Mr L Boulton of NATS Corporate and Technical Centre.  On the same day, I also noted 25 flights between the time of 10.00 pm and 11.00 pm (ie. 1 plane every 2.4 minutes), again correlated by NATS.  Because of the very low ambient noise as illustrated by Mr Sharps’ technical observations as the noise of one plane faded away another could  be  heard  leaving  a  continuous  noise  in  the  sky.

 

 

As  a  result  of  the  court  case  which  took  place  on  the  14th–20th  December 2005 the Hon. Mr Justice Newman found for the Dedham Vale Society and costs were awarded.  The judge stated that “The events which transpired after March 2004 reasonably gave rise to a deep sense of grievance on the part of the claimants and to all those concerned for the environment in the Dedham Vale and other areas of outstanding natural beauty.”

 

He went on to say that the Dedham Vale Society had served the public interest in forcing the issue which has now led to NATS reconsidering air traffic control in the south east, due to be implemented in March  2009.  However, there is no guarantee as to the outcome of this exercise and further damage to the AONB’s (by yet further over-flying) should not be sanctioned until this issue has been satisfactorily resolved.

 
4. Impacts of intensification of use of Stansted airport
 

a) The Stour and Orwell Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is located some 50 miles from Stansted but the effects of further intensity of aviation traffic will be felt by communities not only close to the airport but those a distance away

 

b) The Secretary of State’s guidance to the CAA on environmental objectives relating to the exercise of its Air Navigation Functions was published as part of the Transport Act 2000 and clearly states at paragraph 46 that “The governments aim is to give stronger protection to the most valued landscapes in designated national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.  Therefore, wherever practical the Director of Airspace policy should pursue policies that will help to preserve the tranquillity of the countryside where this does not increase significantly the environmental burdens on congested areas.” 

 

c) Paragraph 55 goes on to say that visual intrusion by aircraft above 7,000 ft may be a consideration in exceptional cases such as national parks and AONB’s.

 

d) There is therefore statutory acknowledgement of the importance of protecting AONB’s in terms of both noise (tranquillity) and visual intrusion. Despite such protection, unrelenting inbound and outbound air traffic is causing major disturbance in the area. Increased usage of Stansted will further threaten our area.

 

e) We would therefore urge that you reject the proposal from BAA to increase flights by 170 a day at Stansted Airport. 

 

f) However, if you are minded to approve BAA’s proposal then may I respectfully ask that a precondition for the implementation of such approval should be the adoption of routing arrangements which generally direct aircraft away from the Dedham Vale and Stour and Orwell AONB’s which are recognised areas of tranquillity and whose environmental quality is expressly protected by statute.

 

Stephen M Clark BSc FRICS ACIArb
Honorary Treasurer
The Stour and Orwell Society

21st August 2007

top4

 

Response by the Alde and Ore Association

Mr P J Ridley
Planning and Coastal Management Department
 Suffolk Coastal District Council
, Melton Hill
, Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 1AU

13 May 2014

Dear Mr. Ridley,

Bentwaters Parks Planning application ref: C/10/3239

I am writing on behalf of The Alde and Ore Association. As you will know the aim of the Association, as set out at the foot of this page, is to preserve for the public benefit, the Alde, Ore and Butley Creek rivers and adjoining land. The Association’s remit takes into account not only physical aspects of development adjoining the rivers but pollution of the estuary arising from causes beyond its immediate surroundings.

The planning application C/10/3239 includes a proposal to legalise 960 aircraft movements by 8 heritage aircraft a year plus an annual air show, and some commercial flights. The Association regards pollution arising from aircraft noise in the vicinity as detrimental to the tranquillity of the estuary which is one of its most notable features.

Bentwaters is only 3.5KM (2.2miles) from the nearest part of the estuary at Butley Mills. Aircraft noise, even if not directly overhead will be disturbing.

Heritage aircraft are of their nature relatively low flying and therefore noisy to people on the ground; commercial aircraft, even if higher, are noisier. The fact that the application proposes to limit flying to the period June to March specifically acknowledges that disturbance to nesting birds in the area will occur.

The application is asking approval for 960 aircraft movements a year plus an undisclosed number of commercial flights but is vague on how this relates to existing and illegal flight numbers. As the application recognises, the airfield cannot control flights either in where they fly before coming into land nor once they have taken off. Indeed, restrictions on flight paths and permitted flying heights are notoriously difficult to enforce and would be outside the jurisdiction of SCDC. There would not therefore be acceptable protection from noise pollution. Bentwaters Park is situated within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and we consider that any flying from there would be contrary to policies protecting this designated area, in particular protection of tranquillity. Policy SP8 seeks to give the highest levels of protection to designated areas of national or international status. Policies SP14, SP, SP17, DM18, DM21 and DEM29 are relevant. Protection of the countryside which is very relevant to this issue is included in policies SP19, SP28 and SP29. The core framework does not make any allowances for aerodromes/flying within the AONBs.

Flying can only be permitted in an AONB if there are exceptional circumstances or it is in the public interest and that the activity could not be carried on elsewhere. These exceptions do not apply and there are we understand five aerodromes in East Anglia where flying can take place away outside and AONB.

It appears that the current flying activity of one Spitfire is unofficially accepted. However while the low flying, including involving dive and barrel rollover by a single plane over some houses in the area, has been tolerated, to expand this to flying most of the year to 8 planes as well as other commercial flying would be a quite different order of nuisance.

The current use of the airfield for light industrial purposes supports local economic activity, flying heritage planes does not support the local community. There is no case in economic terms either for a change of use.

As well as being within an AONB, the Alde and Ore estuary is a valued location for visitors as well as home owners and sailors. The Association commissioned an economic study of the Alde and Ore Area from RPA Consultants. The results were available from 5 April 2014.The findings include that there are some 280,000 day visitors to the area and 100,000 overnight trips, these visitors together spending some £76 million a year. Based on questionnaire returns, the last question which was completed by half of all those householders and visitors who filled in the questionnaire, was to give a in a few words what people valued about the area: the top five words volunteered by 257 people were scenery, tranquillity, countryside, beauty and peace. Of the 105 responses completed by those answering the Sailing questionnaire the top five words were sailing, unspoilt, beauty, river and peace. A growing presence of aircraft noise would completely undermine the core elements of peace and tranquillity for which the area is valued. There would therefore be an economic loss to many businesses in the area as well as the impact on the quality of the area, the environment and wild life if civil aviation were permitted.

In conclusion, we see no justification for overturning the ruling made by the Planning Inspector in 1999 “that use of former RAF Bentwaters base for civil aviation is unacceptable.”

The Association therefore OBJECTS to this application.

Alison Andrews
Chairman of the Alde and Ore Association

 


 

Background information

  1. The baseline for planning permission could be taken as the outcome of the last Planning Inquiry. Members may remember the major planning consultation in the late 1990s when there was great concern that Bentwaters would be used as a large commercial flying base. The outcome of the planning inquiry was that the Planning Inspector ruled was that there should be no flights. "That any economic benefits that might accrue from a new civilian airport are plainly outweighed by the costs to the wider surrounding area in economic, social and environmental terms. I have therefore concluded that … use for civil aviation is unacceptable." And as regards location, "the area enjoys a high status of protection in terms of landscape and scenic beauty, and wild life habitats. Government advice makes it clear that the siting of major commercial development in these areas is inconsistent with the aims of designation and only a proven national need and lack of alternative sites can justify can exception. No exception applies here."
  1. Since the last Inquiry, the Alde and Ore Estuary has continued to be subject to a range of special designations to protect a number of different wild life species. The include the estuary being a Ramsar site, a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation, a number of SSSIs and has a number of reserves.
  2. The application suggests that New National Planning Policy introduced in 2012 provides for sustainable development. It acknowledges that permission should not be granted where significant harm resulting from the development. But the application's findings on estimated flight heights conclude that there would be no significant impact on the internationally designated sites in the area.
  3. The application takes the view that the baseline for the application is current usage which has not been the subject of local complaints. In the last very few years, the Bentwaters site has been the base for the Spitfire which has started to fly over the area. The Spitfire is also based in Duxford.
  4. There have also been commercial flights, currently running at about 10 a month, which have resulted from people wishing to land and not at the initiative of Bentwaters. As yet no permission exists for any flights.
  5. The application seeks to provide for not only the Spitfire but also up to 7 more heritage aircraft and some commercial flights and an annual air show. Evidence for the impact on wildlife of heritage aircraft only exists for the single Spitfire.
  6. It is noted that the application states that control of flight paths is beyond the control of both the applicants and the local authority. It suggests that any aircraft are likely to move away from the AONB area and so only have a nominal influence on the tranquility of the area. No further explanation is given.
  7. The air show would be once a year and likely to be at one weekend and timed to avoid other local events. It is intended to avoid holding the show at the time of peak breeding season of the most sensitive species in the area, that is March to May for the woodlark.
  8. The proposals are based on the premise that applicants consider that the level of the current operations is the base line not the position when the 1999 Planning Inquiry decision was given.