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06/09/2018

Aerodrome safeguarding is not fit for purpose

Small Aeroplane / iStock: 183841288

Safety is paramount in the operation of aerodromes, but too few local authorities in England have safeguarding policies in their local plan, says Tabitha Knowles

Safety is fundamental to the aviation industry. Aerodromes, which are hubs for a wide range of aviation activity, must be able to operate within a safe environment. 

But how well is this requirement to safeguard operations and protect people living and working near aerodromes being applied when proposals come forward for new development?

The civil aviation and planning regimes set out a system to meet this safety objective; it is a complex system that often gives rise to uncertainty as to its application. 

Under the civil aviation regime 
all licensed aerodromes must ensure that the aerodrome and its airspace are safe for use by aircraft. Yet only a select few are safeguarded under the planning regime, by planning circular, and benefit from statutory direction. 

It is unclear how this arbitrary group of officially safeguarded aerodromes has been identified. The other licensed aerodromes can only seek voluntary protection and this is at the discretion of the local planning authority.

"All licensed aerodromes must ensure that the aerodrome and its airspace are safe for use by aircraft"

Lichfields has reviewed the local plans of all the local planning authorities in England with a civil licensed aerodrome to see how well (or indeed if) each aerodrome is appropriately safeguarded. The study has identified a flawed system with evident gaps in local plan safeguarding policy, meaning not all aerodromes are appropriately protected. This suggests that authorities and the aerodromes do not understand the vital role of safeguarding.

In addition, the policy environment has changed significantly since the adoption of the national safeguarding circulars, with the role of aviation now elevated in policy importance, not least in respect of the latest NPPF. 

Consequently, the safeguarding circulars – that are already failing to secure an appropriate local planning context – are considered outdated. 

The aviation industry continues to see growth and plays a key part in the UK economy. These factors all give greater weight to the need to protect an aerodrome’s ability to carry out safe and efficient operations. An update of national advice and how safeguarding is implemented at a local level is required. 

The government, with local planning authority and aerodrome support, should amend safeguarding policy with a review and update to Circulars 1/2003 and 1/2010. Its impending aviation strategy will also provide a chance to bring this issue to the fore.

Many of the local plans reviewed, where policy even exists, fail to reflect the current position of aerodromes and their operational status. But these deficiencies create an opportunity for operators to incorporate safeguarding policy in reviewed and emerging local plans.

Tabitha Knowles is associate director with Lichfields

Photo | iStock
 

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