Redhill Aerodrome Public Inquiry opens

First published in News

East Surrey residents and groups were again lining up against Redhill Aerodrome chiefs this week as the Public Inquiry into the refusal of permission for its latest plans for a hard runway opened.

The planning appeal Inquiry opened on Tuesday (January 7) at the Harlequin Theatre complex in Redhill, and was expected to take four days.

Redhill Aerodrome Limited (RAL) is appealing Reigate and Banstead Borough Council's refusal of planning permission to replace the existing grass runways at the airfield in Kings Mill Lane, Redhill, with a hard runway. The application, turned down last summer, had also sought permission for ancillary infrastructure, comprising realignment of existing taxiways, drainage improvements, replacement runway lighting and new approach lighting.

It had been recommended for refusal by the borough council's planning officer, and had earlier been refused permission by Tandridge District Council's planning committee.

Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council also objected to the plans, which were attacked too by East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah, who said they would have a “monumental impact” on residents and their quality of life. But the scheme did draw support from Gatwick Diamond Business, which represents business and commerce in the region. However, the borough council threw the bid out, as recommended by its planning officer, on grounds of inappropriate development in the Green Belt. In his report, the planning officer stated: “Whilst the economic benefits of the proposal, with additional jobs and Gross Value Added (GVA) that it would bring are acknowledged as favouring the application, they are not, on balance, considered of very special circumstance to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt by way of the intensification of use and increase in built development.” The aerodrome had said the proposals would generate £29 million in GVA – the measure that refers to the economic contribution that arises in the local economy through the employment and business activity of the aerodrome and its tenant businesses. RAL appealed the borough council and Tandridge District Council's decisions last August and requested an Inquiry.

This week, the Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign (GACC), the main environmental body concerned with the airport and which has as members nearly 100 borough, district and parish councils and environmental groups, added its voice to those at the Inquiry, with executive committee member Chris Lovett speaking against RAL's plans.

Mr Lovett said: “Whilst GACC is the main environmental group concerned with Gatwick Airport, we have always resisted development at Redhill because it would compound the adverse effect on the area around Gatwick, and we have always supported Keep Redhill Airport Green.”

He said: “We base our objection on our experience at Gatwick and our knowledge of national aviation policy.”

In a statement issued by GACC, the group attacked the aerodrome's plans saying there are already too many aircraft in the Salfords and Earlswood area, with Gatwick Airport Limited planning an extra 30,000 flights a year – even without a second runway. Citing RAL's proposal that aircraft movements at the aerodrome should be capped at 85,000 a year, GACC stated “85,000 is not a small number,” and said: “The extra noise and pollution caused by an increase to 85,000 movements at Redhill would be intolerable, particularly because a hard runway would enable Redhill airport to handle larger planes.”

The group also highlighted that The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) had objected to the application, and Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council had pointed out: “The approach roads are narrow and winding and are unsuitable for the levels and types of traffic that will result from the application. “Kings Mill Lane has a high accident record and business aviation users will hardly share a transit van from the station.”

GACC further pointed to the Christmas Eve deluge which saw flooding at the aerodrome, stating “climate trend indications are for more heavy rainfall in the future.”

GACC chairman Brendon Sewill said: “We are facing the threat of a second runway at Gatwick.

“A hard runway at Redhill would do nothing to reduce that threat.”

Mr Sewill of Stan Hill, Charlwood, said: “The thought of having both would mean that this area would be totally dominated by aircraft, and swamped, not only by water, but also by the very large number of airport workers who would need to move into the area.”

A spokesman for Redhill Aerodrome was not available for comment as Life went to press this week.

Last year, Crawley-based Gatwick Diamond Business said it “strongly” supported RAL's application, which it said would bring “real economic benefits” as well as add to East Surrey's attraction as a business location. Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of Gatwick Diamond Business, accused people who objected to the scheme of “standing in the way of economic recovery.”

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