All Party Group says New Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) a useful start, but there is more to do…
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA) has welcomed two pro-General Aviation changes made to the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) but says government has more to do if it wishes to return General Aviation, and its many supporting skills to the global pre-eminence set out in its policy.
The new planning document, which provides the overall framework for Local Planning Authorities in England, inserts two paragraphs recognising General Aviation for the first time in planning terms. However, further changes, which would have prevented new owners trying to close down airfields already active for decades, remain to be enacted. Instead, ministers have however said they will work with the 172-strong parliamentary group to provide protection through detailed Guidance, due to be published alongside the new NPPF later this year.
Commenting on the newly published NPPF, the Parliamentary Group Chair, Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, said, “For the first time Planning Policy in England recognises the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields for their contribution to national infrastructure and our economy. In addition, we have also won an important Glossary definition for airfields, which should help at future planning inquiries. However, the government has missed an opportunity to include airfields in the same category as sports clubs and live music venues when it comes to preventing new residents moving into an area, then attempting to close down an airfield which has served the area for decades before they moved in. Ministers have however pledged to work with parliamentarians to address this problem through the detailed Guidance which will sit alongside the main planning document.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA) had called for four specific changes and has rated the government’s response in each case as follows:
- In paragraph 105, subsection (f), remove “maintaining” and insert “protecting, maintaining and enhancing”.This is a new and very important paragraph. Our additional amendment to new paragraph 105(f) was not accepted in full. However, this paragraph which is now 104(f) is entirely new to this NPPF (having been first featured in the draft) and provides an extremely important definition of General Aviation for the first time. In addition to recognising the economic value of General Aviation and officially referencing the Government’s 2015 General Aviation Strategy, the government has also specifically responded to the APPG campaign calling for greater protection and included additional text that recognises the importance of a network of airfields, and their need to adapt and change over time.
The new full 104f now reads:
“recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields, and their need to adapt and change over time – taking into account their economic value in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs, and the Government’s General Aviation Strategy.”
The APPG rates this important new paragraph, which has been further enhanced by ‘adapt and change’ language we proposed for the Glossary actually now appearing in this new paragraph 104f, thereby providing greater weight.
- In paragraph 180, after “music venues,” and before “and sports clubs”, insert “general aviation airfields,”This addition was not accepted on the basis that it might place too heavy a burden on developers over too large an area. However, ministers have pledged to work with parliamentarians to help shape the written Guidance which follows the publication of the NPPF. We would have preferred the measure to be contained in the main planning document, though our rating could still rise if Guidance genuinely tackles the issue.
- In the Glossary at Annex 2, under the definition of Previously Developed Land, after “This excludes:” and before “land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings”, insert “land that is or has been used for aviation purposes;”Not accepted. The Ministry argued that it would have prevented development on any land that was ever an airfield, regardless of whether there is no longer so much of a trace of it left. The APPG would have liked to have seen a refinement proposed, for example to ensure that existing airfields are not regarded as previously developed land and therefore open to be developed.
- In the Glossary at Annex 2, insert the following new definition: “General aviation airfields: Licensed or unlicensed aerodromes with hard or grass runways often with extensive areas of open land related to aviation activity. Airfields form part of the national transport infrastructure. Changes in technology will require aerodromes to adapt and change over time.”Mainly included. The new Glossary definition stops after ‘aviation activity’, thereby not including the last two sentences. However, part of the remaining wording about ‘adapt and change’ has actually now been included paragraph 104 which carries greater weight than in the Glossary. This is the first time that a Glossary definition of General Aviation has been included in the National Planning Policy Framework at all and this should help at Planning Inquiries. We appreciate its acceptance up to a point.
General Aviation provides £3bn worth of General Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy. Twice as much as the UK fishing industry which receives far more government attention. With the release of the new National Planning Policy Framework, the All-Party Group has pledged to work with ministers to end policies which constrain General Aviation. This new NPPF is a start, but there is much more to do.
Notes to editors: The APPG-GA coordinated responses from the General Aviation community and helped gather over 6,000 responses to the government’s NPPF consultation.
The new NPPF is available for download from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/728643/Revised_NPPF_2018.pdf