A Northumberland airfield has been granted a series of controversial changes, including longer operating hours, which were strongly opposed by residents.
The aim of the decision taken by the Castle Morpeth Local Area Council on Monday was to regularise the conditions attached to a planning permission granted in 1995 for Eshott Airfield, which is now under different ownership.
The application, which was approved unanimously in the end, includes the deletion of four conditions, the addition of two new ones and the variation of three existing rules at the site to the south of Felton.
And it was the increased hours of operation, up from 9am-7pm to 7am-11pm, alongside the increased number of aircraft allowed on site from 70 to 100 and the change to the aircraft types permitted which caused the most concern.
Coun Glen Sanderson, the area’s ward member, proposed amending the hours of operation to 8am to 8pm as a compromise as well as establishing no-fly zones to try to appease local residents.
However, he did not receive support for this, particularly after councillors heard that while the 7am-11pm operating hours would apply all year round, in practice, this would only be during the summer as the runway is not lit.
Members were also told that while the standing orders of the airfield included no-fly zones, neither they nor the county council could actually enforce what pilots did once in the sky.
The new hours of operation would be for a temporary period of 12 months and a suggestion by the chairman, Coun Scott Dickinson, that the county council should carry out independent monitoring alongside the applicant’s own was accepted.
Coun David Towns said: “I have a lot of sympathy with residents who will be affected by additional noise. Coun Sanderson has attempted to find a compromise.
“There are two realities here – one is that many people will have moved to the area with the airfield there, knowing that it could expand. The other is that residents have the right to be in their homes and gardens without planes flying overhead at ungodly hours.”
Earlier on the meeting had heard objections from two residents and Coun Hazel Lindley, of Thirston Parish Council, who said: “We support sustainable business growth, but it must minimise the impact on other businesses (such as Bockenfield Holiday Park and Northumberland Country Zoo) and existing residents.”
But Richard Pike, from the airfield, said that the parish council had not taken up offers to discuss the issues, claiming it ‘misunderstood’ a number of aspects.
“Residents will be surprised how little difference this makes,” he added.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service