Redlands Airfield

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Redlands Airfield (X2SN) is an unlicensed private airfield in Wanborough, east of Swindon, Wiltshire, England. It is a few miles from junction 15 of the M4. The site also hosts a small organic beef farm of about 50 acres (20 ha).

Redlands Airfield started as a small microlight club in the 1980s which subsequently expanded into microlight training without planning permission. Flying ceased after neighbours objected to noise, then the airfield re-opened in July 1998 after being granted planning permission by Swindon Borough Council for a microlight flying club.

The airfield has been controversial ever since due to the nature of the planning permission and continued complaints of noise pollution to residents across a large area of North Wiltshire. Over the years, the airfield expanded to include microlight training and, in 2000, skydiving. The temporary assessment period for a skydiving club was cut short after the owners applied for early permission despite no flying having taken place due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic having closed the airfield. As a consequence there were no objections to the granting of planning permission. An agricultural barn received retrospective permission for microlight hangarage and a temporary moveable café was relocated to the barn without prior approval of the planning department who subsequently deemed it ancillary development. The expansion into skydiving with the London Parachute School heralded the beginning of many complaints about noise nuisance and a petition in 2005 objecting to this activity gathered nearly 1,000 objections. A mediator was engaged by Swindon Borough Council but without any result.

The first skydiving plane to fly from this site needed a longer runway than the grass strip of the microlight club. A new runway was constructed on a new alignment by removal of a hedge and pond without the prior approval of Swindon Borough Council.

Organisations based at the airfield include Redlands Microlight Club, Clearprop Microlight School[1] and Skydive London.[2] There is a café, open at weekends only, for the use of those using Clearprop or Skydive London. The planning permission does not allow use of the café by the general public.

Visiting microlights are welcome at Redlands with PPR.

Planning issues[edit]

In 2009 Joe and Sarah Smith, who own the airfield, were granted planning permission by Swindon Borough Council to continue its operations after the council was threatened with a Judicial Review for its attempt to re-write planning conditions. The planning application had attempted to turn the personal life permission into a full business permission, despite this being against planning regulations.[3]

The development of Redlands Farm into an airfield hosting microlights, microlight training and skydiving has not met with universal approval in Swindon and North Wiltshire. Since 2000 several campaign groups have fought development (Stop the Plane Campaign and Residents Against Redlands). In 2012 the Chair of Swindon Borough Council Planning Committee, Dale Heenan (a Councillor for Covingham, an area which is overflown) said "As a result of the debate on the report, I have written to the two Swindon MP’s, Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland, in my capacity as Committee Chairman, to ask for their support to see local planning authorities having the ability to control aviation related noise from unlicensed airfields, and ensure flight paths do not occur over residential areas."[citation needed]

In reviewing the measures available to address this issue, Swindon Borough Council found it is limited in any involvement with aircraft noise when the aircraft is in the air. From a nuisance perspective this comes under s.79(1)(ga) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Noise Act 1996 (with the exception of model aircraft). This means that aircraft noise in the air is excluded by law from the control of Local Authorities, and is instead regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority through the certification of aircraft in the UK. Local Authorities must regulate aviation noise nuisance through the initial planning permission or must act subsequently by issuing a discontinuance notice with the permission of the Secretary of State.[4]

Planning officers confirmed that the next version of Swindon’s Core Strategy could include dealing with Redlands as part of the Eastern Villages scheme[clarification needed], and said that if the Strategy can be amended it could allow a scenario where the farm can be optioned[clarification needed] by a developer for a small number of houses, leading to the airfield closing.[5] In 2012 local residents continue to object to skydiving at Redlands.[6]

In 2013 Swindon Borough Council decided to include Redlands Airfield and Farm within the local structure plan and grant planning permission for a housing development with the intention of extinguishing the airfield. In 2014 the inspector took representations about the local structure plan, and a decision about the soundness of the plan was expected before the end of the year.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°33′36″N 1°42′22″W / 51.560°N 1.706°W / 51.560; -1.706