Judge Backs Inspector on Airfield

COMPLAINTS by the would-be developers of Old Sarum airfield about the way a planning inspector rejected their scheme have been shot down by a judge.

Old Sarum Airfield Ltd. launched a High Court challenge after losing an appeal against Wiltshire Council, the planning authority.

They claimed the appeal inspector didn’t take sufficient account of the “significant public benefits” of their proposal for mixed-use development including 462 homes and a flying hub.

These, they said, included landscape, ecological, highways and road safety benefits.

They said her decision-making was “irrational and unfair”, and that she did not give good enough reasons for her conclusions.

The inspector ruled that the historic importance of the First World War airfield and its long-term future as a flying hub, along with the need to enhance its historic character, “must be in the forefront”  in agreeing a masterplan for the site.

Whilst acknowledging some benefits the scheme would deliver, such as noise controls on flying, she said the overall public benefits did not outweigh the harm the development would cause to the sensitive historic environment in the conservation area.

And she urged both sides to work together to come up with a compromise.

Mr Justice Robin Knowles CBE said the council and the airfield owners had “engaged in a way that was highly adversarial” and they should heed the inspector’s advice to reach a statement of common ground.

“The current position with the Airfield has some negative consequences for all,” the judge concluded.

“With care, rigour, respect for the – quite remarkable – heritage involved, a commitment to quality and a constructive approach I cannot see that an outcome involving appropriate development need elude the parties.”

We shall see ….

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