All-Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation meets with Transport Secretary

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation met with the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, to discuss how General Aviation is at the centre of an aviation sector worth £58bn to the United Kingdom and to discuss the many pressing issues facing the General Aviation sector.

The purpose of the meeting was to both brief the Secretary of State and to discuss how the APPG – which is now amongst the biggest in Parliament with 79 cross-party members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – can best work with the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure the sector survives and thrives.

The meeting focussed on the urgent need for new government policy to address the under-pressure airfield network. New statistics were presented to the Secretary of State showing that, whereas in 1998 around 250 UK licensed airfields existed, today that number is just 96.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group asked the Secretary of State to ensure that his Transport Department lives up to its responsibilities as the sector’s ‘champion’ within Whitehall. And the parliamentarians argued that the DfT should use its sponsoring role to liaise more closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is currently undergoing a programme selling off military aerodromes – many of which have existing civil aviation uses – across the country.

Referring to the Parliamentary Group’s letter to the Secretaries of State for Transport and Communities and Local Government in September, the group reiterated its ‘ask’ that the Civil Aviation Authority be given an explicit safeguarding role for General Aviation airfields, and that the Department for Transport push for changes to planning law to give airfields protection from development.

A number of potentially positive airfield cases were also highlighted, including Plymouth, Blackpool, Manston and a mixed-use development at Panshanger which still faces policy challenges.

The Transport Secretary made a firm commitment to come back to the Parliamentary Group with an action plan by 14th February 2018.

Grant Shapps MP, Chair of the APPG, said: “This was a very important meeting with the Transport Secretary and a really good opportunity to outline the urgent issues facing General Aviation, and what Government needs to do to address them.

“I believe the Secretary of State is fully aware of what’s required to ensure the survival of such a vital part of our economy that not only directly contributes £3 billion and employs nearly 40,000 people in high-skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs, but supports the wider £58 billion aviation sector. Unless we get urgent action, the UK will lose out, so we look forward to seeing the Transport Department’s plan of action for General Aviation by mid-February.

“With 79 MPs and Lords now backing this Parliamentary Group from across all the political parties, it is time for Ministers and Government to appreciate that without General Aviation, this country cannot excel in our broader aviation, economic and social goals. We very much hope that this is the moment when the UK finally backs a sector which means so much to the health of the UK economy.”