Tag Aviation has appealed a local government ruling in November that blocked its application to increase annual movements at the London-area Farnborough Airport from 28,000 to 50,000. The central government’s Department for Communities and Local Government received the appeal on December 7. A public inquiry is likely to begin this year.
The company, which operates Farnborough under a 99-year lease, has appealed on the grounds that Rushmoor Borough Council’s stated “reasons for refusal” were not substantiated by technical evidence. Tag’s legal team has also argued that the council development control committee (which consists of elected politicians) blocked the official recommendation to accept the movement increase that had been made by its full-time planning officials. The appeal alleges that the politicians “failed to take into account national planning and airports policy.”
Rushmoor’s official “reasons for refusal” of Tag’s application to boost traffic at Farnborough were that this would have “an adverse impact on the amenities of surrounding residential property” and that the economic benefits of doing so have not been “satisfactorily demonstrated to outweigh the environmental consequences.”
In a detailed, 125-page report that recommended acceptance of Tag’s application to increase annual movements, Rushmoor’s own head of planning had stated that the existing limit of 28,000 movements is “outdated.” He also said that there would be “considerable” economic benefit locally and to the wider region, adding that environmental implications would be “minor” and that Tag had offered significant mitigation measures.
UK government policy explicitly calls for greater use to be made of smaller airports around London, and the appeal could well succeed on this basis. However, a general election will be held by the end of May, and it remains to be seen whether the appeal can be completed before then. It is not uncommon in UK planning applications like this for local politicians to pander to local opposition in the almost certain knowledge that the applicants will win on appeal without their having to take the blame.