The Airfields Working Group has been established to directly address the issues surrounding the decline of General Aviation airfields across the country. In particular, the number of airfields licenced by the Civil Aviation Authority has dramatically declined over recent years to around 100 today. However the APPG’s concerns are not limited to just licenced airfields, but airfields of all types. The working group believes that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provides little assistance to maintain the airfields that continue to exist, and indeed many of those are under threat of closure. New airfields are never built, therefore once an airfield closes it is gone forever.
As a sector, General Aviation directly provides £3bn of Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy every year. It also employs more than 38,000 people largely in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles, and it provides the foundation for the much broader £60.6bn UK aviation sector.
With airfields currently classified as brownfield land, there is irrefutable evidence that Local Planning Authorities see any airfield site in its entirety as suitable for development. In Surrey, every licenced airfield is under threat, in Hertfordshire there is only one remaining licenced airfield, and in 22 counties across the UK there are no licenced airfields whatsoever. Protection for airfields in the NPPF and other related planning guidance cannot be deemed as either appropriate or effective as it currently stands.
The Airfields Working Group is therefore of the view that a strategically important part of our national transport infrastructure is fighting for its survival. The group, and the APPG more widely, fully supports the Government’s stated policy of making the UK the best country in the world for General Aviation. The group will therefore be urging Government to introduce immediate changes to the NPPF, and encourage departments across Whitehall to work together to protect the critical network of General Aviation airfields.