Tue, 16 Feb 2016
A PROJECT to build three large aircraft hangars in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is vital for national security, a planning application claims.
And defence of the realm should trump “relatively minor AONB concerns”, it insists.
The hangars, which will be used to service more than 70 aircraft, would be built at Membury Airfield and the largest of the three would measure 50m long by 24m wide, with 9.3m to the ridge of the roof.
Applicant SPH Groundworks Ltd acknowledges: “A pre-application submission... was submitted in mid 2015, and was considered unfavourably by West Berkshire Council.”
But it goes on to play its ace – the issue of national security.
It points out that a large contract has already been awarded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to Southern Sailplanes, in conjunction with Babcock Aerospace, for the return-to-service of more than 70 gliders.
The application states: “This contract will be placed at risk without securing the outline consent, with the consequence of the MoD being left without vital resources to train their recruits.
“By allowing these gliders to fall into disrepair the finances of the MoD will also be impacted, the consequences of which are difficult to impress within such an application.
“It is of the utmost priority that the application be approved without delay.”
The applicant stresses the “exceptional circumstances” and adds: “The absolute necessity for this application to be considered is paramount now that a Government contract is in abeyance.
“Such a contract is of utmost importance to national security and the training of RAF pilot recruits to defend this nation needs to be given priority over relatively minor AONB concerns.”
The three new hangars would be built on land adjacent to the existing, newly-constructed hangar building at the Membury Airfield, granted planning consent in August 2012.
SPH Groundworks Ltd will lease the buildings to Southern Sailplanes in order to service and repair gliders and light aircraft.
The application concludes: “It should be welcomed that such expansion is required at Membury Airfield and that the increase of hangar space will accommodate the 70 gliders that require urgent maintenance over the forthcoming years.
“The proposed development and use of the buildings is a clear result of Membury Airfield’s success in the aviation sector and it is imperative that such a worthy employment and business generating use is encouraged and fully supported by the local authority.
“Any contrary consideration would fly in the face of the MoD awarding such a contract. The proposal is supported by the National Planning Policy Framework which seeks to promote a prosperous rural economy.
“Moreover it is expected that the application will be strongly supported by local parish councillors and the public.”
The application can be viewed in full and commented upon by visiting West Berkshire Council website’s planning section and using the reference 16/00142/OUTMAJ