Press

From the East Anglian Daily Times - July 04, 2014 - LINK

Bentwaters: Increased flying from old air base would be ‘major threat’ to Aldeburgh Festival, say event organisers

 Friday, July 4, 2014 
12:31 PM

From the East Anglian Daily Times - June 27, 2014 - LINK

Bentwaters: Flying could ruin area’s tranquility and threaten £80m economy and jobs

 Friday, June 27, 2014 
6:00 AM

Opponents of the blueprint for the site say extra flying would ruin one of the main reasons people choose to visit the coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – reducing visitor numbers and threatening jobs.

The Alde and Ore Association, a charity which aims to preserve and protect the Alde and Ore Estuary, has suggested flying activities at the base should be moved to the Imperial War Museum’s airstrip at Duxford.

Owners of the old base, Bentwaters Parks have denied the new limits will increase the number of flights significantly, with flights restricted by planning permission to an average of less than two per day, and said the planning application aims to regularize activities at the site and safeguard the future of the Grace Spitfire and seven other heritage planes housed there.

Campaigners against the move though dispute this.

Alison Andrews, chairman of the Alde and Ore Association, said: “Our concern is that increased flying will ruin the peace and tranquility for which this area is renowned.

“The estuary is internationally recognized and protected for its wildlife which will not survive disturbance of this magnitude.

“Visitors to the area contribute some £80m to the local economy.

 “This would be damaged if the peace and tranquility of the area was lost just at the time when visitors are most likely to come, so reducing the number of visitors and local employment numbers.”

The association said its recent economic study found the top five words offered by those who completed a questionnaire about what they valued about the area were scenery, tranquility, countryside, beauty and peace.

The association claims the proposed 960 flying movements a year is far more than at present and included no limit of how many will be heritage or commercial flights.

In a report, it said: “There are already about 10 commercial flights a month now and these occur without planning permission.

“While no more than 20 flights (40 movements) a week is proposed, they could mostly happen on a fine summer’s weekend and would not necessarily be spread out over the week.

“One heritage aircraft is special but a further possible seven old planes plus commercial flights is a different order of magnitude.”

Steven Bainbridge, of Evolution Town Planning, agents for Bentwaters’ owners, said he had spoken to the chairman of the association to answer the issues they were raising and was willing to attend a meeting to speak to them.

He said: “The applicants have gone to significant expense to assess their development against these issues, including that of tranquility, in an Environment Impact Assessment.”

From the East Anglian Daily Times - June 20, 2014 

Bentwaters: Campaigners hit back in row over Spitfire flying at former air base

 Friday, June 20, 2014 
9:59 AM

Arguments over whether flying should be permitted at a former Suffolk air base have intensified with community leaders closest to the site backing aviation use.

Rendlesham Parish Council has confirmed its support for a new blueprint for the Bentwaters site – saying it will bring new jobs to the area, and extra public amenities.

But the application, which seeks consent for the use of nearly 200 buildings as well as 960 air movements a year, has split communities across east Suffolk.

So far Suffolk Coastal council has received 400 letters about the plan – 66% of them against flying from the former USAF Cold War base.

Rendlesham Parish Council chairman Kay Nash said the blueprint was seeking to regularise the activities at the former base, which already include use by heritage aircraft, including the Grace Spitfire, and occasional business flights.

She said: “The application supports local employment and will make provision for a new bridleway which will provide pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders with better access to the forest.

“We also fully support the level of flying being proposed.

“As with any activity there will always be the one or two people that have differing views but the Spitfire and the other heritage planes that are housed at Bentwaters are considered an important part of our heritage, even more so now as we recall the recent D Day commemorations to remind us what a critical part the Grace Spitfire played during the D Day landings.

“We strongly believe that every effort should be made to support the dedicated people that maintain these planes as part of our history.”

Bromeswell Parish Council has called for a “clear and robust flight recording and monitoring system” to be established with quarterly figures published, and a clear statement from Suffolk Coastal council that it would not tolerate any further increase in flying.

Opponents believe extra flying will destroy the tranquillity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, harm wildlife, and ruin one of the main reasons people visit the Suffolk Coastal area.

They believe permitting an agreed level of flying sets a precedent and is the thin end of the wedge, opening the door for the creation of a civil airport.

Eyke Parish Council is calling for the blueprint to be rejected and wants flying treated as a separate application.

The council said: “What is being proposed will have a major impact which will irrevocably change the tranquillity of the area forever. The permission to fly in principle will make it easier to increase greatly flying levels in future, with, or without, necessary planning applications.”

Alderton Parish Council and Chillesford Parish Meeting have also both objected.

Campaigners also feel the Spitfire could accomplish its flying within the deferred development rights which allowed flying from Bentwaters 28 days a year.

From the East Anglian Daily Times - June 23, 2014 

Bentwaters: Flying at old military air base has split communities across east Suffolk

 Monday, June 23, 2014 
10:00 AM

Campaigners fighting proposals to increase flying at a former military air base say they are not opposed to an historic Spitfire using the runway.

The Bentwaters Campaign Group (BCG) says it is trying to promote a “sensible and rational” debate about the future of flying from the site and its potential impact on the coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Pilot Carolyn Grace, whose company Air Leasing Ltd operates the Grace Spitfire ML407, withdrew from a display at the weekend’s Rendlesham Show, saying her decision was “a direct result” of the activities of the BCG.

A BCG spokesman strongly refuted the suggestion, saying Mrs Grace’s decision was fuelling unwarranted resentment against the campaign group.

He said: “The decision to withdraw from the event was Mrs Grace’s alone.

“Any suggestion that BCG is involved in it is wrong. The BCG did not make any comment about the event. It didn’t contact Suffolk Coastal District Council about it, and the district council did not, to our knowledge, say she could not fly either.”

The group says its critics have “mischievously suggested” that it is opposed to flying by the Spitfire from Bentwaters.

The spokesman said: “Bentwaters played a vital part in our war effort. So did the Spitfire.

“It is appropriate that this iconic aircraft should continue to fly from there. But under regulations covering deferred development rights, flying (or other activities) are allowed from Bentwaters 28 days a year.

“Based on the number of times the Spitfire has flown in recent seasons, this would seem entirely adequate for this heritage need.

“Many individuals have objected to proposals for flying by more aircraft at Bentwaters. That is the point.”

Opponents believe extra flying will destroy the tranquility of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, harm wildlife, and ruin one of the main reasons people visit the Suffolk Coastal area.

Bentwaters Parks says its blueprint for the future of the former 940-acre Cold War base seeks to regularise the activities already taking place.

It is seeking consent for the use of nearly 200 buildings as well as 960 air movements a year, which would include an air show, the flying of heritage planes and occasional business flights. It has denied that it is attempting to create a civil airport.

From the East Anglian Daily Times - June 25, 2014 

Suffolk: Petition urges go-ahead for flying at Bentwaters

 Wednesday, June 25, 2014
9:59 AM

Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition urging planners to permit flying at the former Bentwaters USAF air base

The online petition, which will be sent to Suffolk Coastal when the consultation deadline finishes on July 7, is supporting the Grace Spitfire and other heritage planes which fly from the site.

David Burr, who launched the petition, said: “The 1999 Planning Inspector’s report concerned proposals for a regional airport of some 80,000 movements a year. The Inspector was not against all flying from Bentwaters forever.

“The (current) application proposes a maximum of 480 flights – 960 movements – per year. A take-off and landing is one flight.

“This averages 1.25 flights a day. There is no intention of creating an airport and the numbers confirm this.

“There is already flying in this area of the county by military and civilian pilots. It is common knowledge that since the Americans left in 1993 there has been continuous flying from Bentwaters.”

 

Kay Nash, Rendlesham Parish Council chairman, said more than 300 letters in support of the Bentwaters planning application had been handed in at the Rendlesham Show, and a further 350 signatures were collected on petition forms to add to those online.

Opponents stress that they are not against the Spitfire flying but fear an increase in flights could set a precedent for further flying development in future and harm the tranquillity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and ruin one of the main reasons people visit the Suffolk Coastal area.

Steven Bainbridge, of Evolution Town Planning, agents for Bentwaters’ owners, said the website of the Bentwaters Campaign Group (BCG) proclaimed it was “opposed to flying from Bentwaters since 1997”.

He said a five-hour meeting had been held between the owners and Carolyn and Richard Grace from Air Leasing with the BCG to explain the planning application and the structure and function of Air Leasing, which operates the Spitfire, and how that supports the historic aircraft.

Mr Bainbridge said: “Therefore if the BCG truly support the Spitfire, they must know (because we told them) the fact is they must also support Air Leasing Ltd. The two are in fact inextricably linked.”

From the East Anglian Daily Times - June 16, 2014 

Rendlesham: Spitfire is pulled out of village show in row over flights at Bentwaters

 Monday, June 16, 2014 
6:14 PM

Pilot Carolyn Grace, whose company Air Leasing Ltd operates the Grace Spitfire ML407, said her withdrawal from the Rendlesham Show was “a direct result” of the activities of the Bentwaters Campaign Group.

Mrs Grace was due to open the show and perform an aerial display over open ground beside Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon in the Spitfire, which was the first aircraft to shoot down an enemy plane during D-Day.

However, since Bentwaters Parks applied for approval for a blueprint for the future use of the 380-hectare former USAF base, there has been uproar over a perceived increase in flying from the site with claims that the aim is to create a civil airport.

The site owners are seeking permission for 960 air movements a year – less than two planes landing and taking off each day.

They say the purpose of this is to regularise the flying which currently takes place by a small number of heritage aircraft, including the Grace Spitfire, and occasional business flights. Mrs Grace, who learned to fly the Spitfire ML407 in 1990 after the death of her husband Nick in 1988, and who restored the Second World War fighter, said she was saddened to make the decision not to take part in the show.

It was “as a direct result” of the combined activities against Air Leasing Ltd by the Bentwaters Campaign Group and others.

She said “I despair that so few can have such an adverse effect on so many.”

The Spitfire could not survive without the infrastructure of Air Leasing and the continuation of its aviation workshop at Bentwaters, which pays for the annual maintenance of the Spitfire and enables it to carry on flying.

She said: “Without Air Leasing, it’s like having the ingredients for a cake but with no oven.

“The cost of maintaining the Spitfire is huge – for example £120,000 for an engine overhaul, which has to be done every 500 flying hours.”

Rendlesham parish clerk, Heather Heelis said: “Whilst it is sad that the Spitfire won’t be flying at the Rendlesham Show on June 21, we support and respect Carolyn Grace in her decision and will continue to support the wonderful work that she does keeping our heritage alive and flying.”

Roz Hazelton, the landlady of the Green Man pub in Tunstall, said: “Everybody is saying how ridiculous it is and moods are running very high.

“There are a few people who are being very noisy and saying all of these negative things and yet most people are not bothered.

“Most people who live here love the Spitfire, the moment it flies past, everyone leaves the pub to go outside and look at it – they’re not sticking their fingers in their ears and complaining about the noise.”

No-one from Bentwaters Campaign Group was available for comment, though the group has said it is not opposed to the Spitfire flying from Bentwaters.

It said: “It is appropriate that this iconic aircraft should continue to fly from there.

“But under regulations covering deferred development rights, flying (or other activities) are allowed from Bentwaters 28 days a year.

“Based on the number of times the Spitfire has flown in recent seasons, this would seem entirely adequate for this heritage need.”


For an update on this story, click here

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