Welcome to Save Panshanger Airfield
Following the closure of Welwyn Hatfield Council’s consultation on its plan to build 700 houses on Panshanger Airfield in January 2013, we are continuing to question and campaign against the proposals. We would like to thank all those who have supported us so far and hope you will continue to follow our work.
To follow our latest local news, do have a look at our other website www.panshangerpeople.org.uk
Who are we:
The task of trying to save Panshanger Airfield and adjacent land has been taken on by Panshanger People, a community based group, which includes local people and pilots. The Save Panshanger website will cover the aviation issues, but Panshanger People will run the campaign going forward.
Please show us your support by joining us - we need to have as wide a
support base as possible to demonstrate how much we care about the airfield.
Thank you to all the people who joined our email list recently and signed the e-petition. We had petition responses from all but two postcode regions of the UK , which demonstrates how wide-spread the support to Save Panshanger is.
General Aviation Challenge Panel Interim report.
The General Aviation Challenge Panel, established by ministers in November 2013 has made its first interim report (final report expected at the end of April). Established in response to the Red Tape Challenge, the panel aims to guide the establishment of a GA section of the CAA and to help promote general aviation in this country. Most interesting, from our point of view, is the section on planning protection:
“The Panel recognises a need to secure a network of GA aerodromes which would in addition provide improved opportunities for regional connectivity for many areas not regularly served by the commercial aviation network and also have a role in facilitating lifesaving air ambulance operations and civil protection. However, the trend of losing airports and airfields used by GA will hinder this and reduce their wider economic benefits. There may be many factors relating to the closure of airfields but the designation of some of them as brownfield sites makes them attractive to local planning authorities and owners to redevelop or sell them for others uses, in particular to meet housing stock demands. The Panel has begun work with DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government] to explore opportunities to protect aerodromes from redevelopment.”
Although Panshanger is not a brownfield site, it is an “Area of Special Restraint”, which is the next best (worst) thing. This means that it has less protection than the Greenbelt (which in WelHat is everything outside the towns and villages), but slightly more than urban brownfield sites. However, all the possible brownfield sites in WelHat have already been allocated housing in the core strategy already.
The panel are working with the DCLG (which provides central guidance to local authorities) on the place aerodromes have within their communities and their role in serving business, leisure, training and emergency services, especially when considering them as part of local plans. The intention is to explore the role the DCLG can potentially play in supporting GA. The Panel notes that the majority of people, including local government and councils do not consider the potential economic value of aviation or smaller aerodromes and that these aerodromes need to become a material consideration and safeguarded in order to carry weight at a planning committee.
“In order to provide specific unlicensed aerodromes and the network sufficient protection by means of planning policy, a list of such sites could be prepared and consulted upon. Once a decision as to their inclusion has been reached it could form a part of the NPPF when it is next revised or updated. This would allow greater weight to be placed in favour of unlicensed aerodromes. Alternatively, a letter could be drafted from the Chief Planner to all local authorities providing a list of sites to be safeguarded. The letter could be more general and provide that local planning authorities must have regard to the retention of such assets within their community.”
“Before the publication of the final report, the Panel hopes to work further with DCLG and DfT [Department for Transport] to explore these opportunities further.”
Whether Panshanger will be designated a strategic airfield is yet to be seen, but it is a critically important training and leisure facility in the crowded North London and Hertfordshire area, which could not be replicated. Let’s hope these recommendations can be put into practise and into the NPPF in time!
The entire document can be found here. Section 3 relates to the planning issues but the other sections are interesting for general information.
Asset of Community Value
Under recent localism legislation, community groups can ask local councils to list a local facility as an asset of community value, which gives them an opportunity and time to raise funds to buy it, when it is offered for sale. We tried to get the airfield registered to prove how much we value it, but as we expected, WelHat council turned down our application, though we are struggling to understand their response given below:
The actual current use of the Land is as a commercial transport facility and flying school, run as a business accessible to members only and as such, is a business facility AND does not qualify as being of community value AND does not further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.
Review of Decision
In accordance with section 92 of the Act, only the Owner of the Land may seek a review of this decision, if it is to include any land on the list of Assets of Community Value
Delving into the minutes of the meetings held on the ACV, it shows that the council admit that they do not understand several points and yet have not sought clarification from the applicant, but only from the land owner, who has employed one of the most expensive law firms in the country to prepare their reply. They also say that the airfield is not open to non-members, but since that is an imposition of the current land owner, who by definition would not own the land should the ACV be activated, it is totally irrelevant. It’s obviously easier just to say no!
We have at last received the overdue result for our application to register Hillyfields Meadow (the open land at the end of R29) as an asset of community value. This bit of open land which is also part of the development plan is well used by the local community and provides open access space that would not be replaced in the Panshanger area under the current proposal. The ACV was refused, with the reason that the area had already been covered by the Panshanger ACV application which was refused last year. We are not happy that the council have handled these two applications properly and will consider how to challenge them.
We have been doing a lot more work on documenting the wildlife on the Airfield and adjacent Hillyfield site which had not been done previously because of restricted access (it’s an airfield!). Apart from the Runway and taxiways, the site is covered in long grasses which are deliberately not cut and this provides a habitat of unimproved grassland which is rare in Hertfordshire. This Habitat supports an abundance of wildlife, especially birds, many of which are considered under threat nationally. Thanks to two dedicated members of the British Ornithology Trust who have been monitoring the site, we now have records of Barn Owls, Red Kites, Kestrels, Linnets, Sky Larks and Yellowhammers all of which are red listed (those with declining populations in the UK). We also know Bats and Badgers are using the site and there is an abundance of insects (particularly butterflies) and reptiles, which we have not yet been able to record. Whilst individual species are important, it is the entire undisturbed habitat provided by the airfield that is crucial.