Serious concerns raised over impact on Shoreham Airport of proposed development
Grant Shapps MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation, has raised serious concerns in a letter to Adur and Worthing Councils over a potential development next to Shoreham Airport, and what impact this could have on the airfield’s operations.
In a letter to James Appleton, Head of Growth at Adur and Worthing Councils, Grant expressed the APPG’s concern about the long-term future of the two grass runways if the development is granted planning permission. Once completed, it would mean that aircraft using either of the two runways would have to fly directly over the development during take-off or landing, presenting significant safety issues in the event of engine failure or other emergencies.
Shoreham Airport is a licensed aerodrome, but is not classed as a civil aerodrome and therefore not afforded safeguarding protections under the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Statistics from the CAA show that in 2016, Shoreham Airport was the 18th busiest airport in the UK in terms of aircraft movements. Of the 28 officially safeguarded civil aerodromes, only 11 were busier than Shoreham last year. As the majority of movements at Shoreham Airport are single engine aircraft performing flight training, and CAA civil aerodrome guidance makes specific reference to flight training, the APPG believes that there is a safeguarding issue to be addressed.
The APPG has also highlighted the many aviation maintenance, engineering and flight training businesses and jobs based at the airfield who rely on a stable aviation environment, and whose survival would be at risk if operations at the Airport were to reduce or cease completely due to the development. In particular, the APPG has drawn the council’s attention to the Airport’s helicopter circuit patterns which are currently above the proposed development site. Guidance to helicopters departing and landing at the Airport is to avoid built-up areas, which would essentially mean that helicopter flying at the airport would be almost impossible to maintain if the development was to proceed. This would in turn run the risk of putting several helicopter companies based at Shoreham out of business, causing harm to the economic prosperity of the area.
In line with Government policy, the APPG supports the mixed-use development of airfields, but believes that maintaining both the safety of operations and the long-term viability of an airfield is a vital consideration.
The full letter to Adur and Worthing Councils can be found below.
Grant Shapps MP said: “I have written to Adur and Worthing Councils regarding the proposed development next to Shoreham Airport, as I believe it raises serious concerns about the long-term future of the airfield and the many aviation businesses and jobs based there. Whilst I understand and support the need to deliver new housing across the country, there are ways of doing this which do not threaten the existence of critical infrastructure already in the local area.
“We are seeing a rapid decline in the number of airfields across the country because of developments such as these, combined with a lack of legislative protection for such an important part of the UK’s transport infrastructure. The APPG believes that our network of General Aviation airfields must be protected and enhanced so that we can create the high-tech jobs and growth our economy needs to prosper.”
I am writing to you as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation regarding the above planning application for development on the New Monks Farm site in Lancing.
It is the objective of both the APPG and the Government to make the UK the best country in the world for general aviation. The APPG aims to do this by promoting the protection and enhancement of our network of airfields across the country which bring valuable skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, thereby creating high-tech jobs and growth in our economy.
As such, the APPG has serious concerns about the impact this proposed development would have on the neighbouring Shoreham Airport site, and in particular the long term future of the two grass runways. Should the development be approved, it would mean aircraft using these runways would have to fly directly over the new development. Depending on the direction of wind, this would either be as the aircraft takes off or lands. This would present a serious safety issue in the event of an aircraft experiencing engine failure or other emergencies.
In addition, a development so close to an active airfield could lead to a substantial increase in noise complaints from residents, which would undoubtedly create pressure on the airport to either reduce its activity or close completely. There are a number of listed buildings on the airfield which rely on a stable aviation environment for support and renovations. There are also many aviation maintenance, engineering and flight training businesses at the airport that would be at risk if the development was to proceed, as would the highly-skilled jobs that go with them.
Furthermore, the APPG understands that Shoreham Airport guidance to helicopters departing and landing at the airport is that they should avoid overflying built-up areas. Consequently the airport’s helicopter circuit patterns are directly above the unbuilt land proposed for development. Should the development proceed as planned, this would essentially make helicopter flying at the airport almost impossible to maintain and also run the risk of putting several helicopter companies based at Shoreham out of business.
Shoreham Airport is the only airfield of its kind in the local area, and the risk of losing it to development would, in the APPG’s view, cause great harm to the transport infrastructure of the United Kingdom and employment in the aviation sector. You may be aware that the Government is consulting on a new Aviation Strategy, and sees the UK aviation sector as a global success story and vital for the country’s future prosperity. It is therefore imperative that Shoreham Airport is fully maintained as a general aviation airport, and only by doing so can it remain sustainable for the many businesses and jobs which depend on it.
I intend to make a copy of this letter available in the public domain, and I will also be sending a copy to Tim Loughton MP, the local Member of Parliament.
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation