South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has chosen to quash its decision to grant planning permission for a new helicopter base in Almondsbury, on a green belt site just across the M5 motorway from north Bradley Stoke, following a legal challenge from a determined objector.
The new base would serve the needs of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and National Police Air Service, whose helicopters are currently based at Filton Airfield.
BAE Systems, which owned the airfield at the time of the original planning application, and has plans to redevelop it with 2,675 residential dwellings and up to 24ha of commercial use, said it was necessary to relocate the helicopter base because leaving it at the airfield would lead to “the loss of approximately 400 residential dwellings and a significant proportion of affordable housing [within the new development]”.
It was also claimed that the current site would be unsuitable due to demolition and construction activity in the vicinity of helicopter operations over many years.
Outline planning permission for the airfield redevelopment has since been granted and the site sold to a Malaysian property developer.
An SGC committee approved the helicopter base plans in July last year, but a resident of Almondsbury threatened to issue proceedings to judicially review the decision, on the grounds that the council had (1) failed to properly assess the environmental impact of the development; (2) failed to impose a noise monitoring condition; and (3) in assessing the required “very special circumstances” for development in the green belt, failed to take account of the fact that there was an option for the retention of the [helicopter] operation on its current site [at Filton Airfield].”
Having taken advice from an expert QC, who indicated that grounds (1) and (2) had a realistic prospect of being successfully argued at a judicial review, the council has chosen to quash its planning decision and “remake“ it, giving proper regard to grounds (1) and (2).
The expert QC advised the council that he considered ground (3) to have “little or no merit”.
An SGC spokesperson confirmed: “The original application was quashed by the High Court and will come back to the council to re-determine. Residents will be able to have their say on the application.”
No date has yet been set for the SGC planning committee to reconsider the application.
The council’s spend on legal proceedings associated with the case is put at £8,861, to which will be added the cost of council officers’ time in preparing new committee reports in order for the decision to be “remade”.
Residents of north Bradley Stoke are among scores of people who have objected to the proposed helicopter base, although a majority of comments on The Journal’s online channels have indicated support.
Bradley Stoke Town Council, although not a statutory consultee, as the site lies in another parish, responded to the original planning application stating that “a noise attenuation barrier needs to be provided for the Woodlands Caravan Park and Ormonds Close if this proposal goes ahead”. The demand was dismissed by an SGC environmental protection officer, who confirmed that “any noise issues at Woodlands Caravan Park are linked to historical issues at the location and installing a fence at the site would not provide any noise benefit with regard to the proposed helicopter application”.
More information and related links:
- Planning application PT15/1438/F
- New helicopter base near the M4/M5 Almondsbury Interchange (The Journal)
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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