Serious failure of planning administration for Bagby Airfield by Hambleton Council
Archived press release
Date Published: 20/04/12
Hambleton District Council’s planning officers failed to exercise proper control over the use of Bagby Airfield, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex.
The airfield has been operating in contravention of its planning permission for several years but the council missed opportunities to take action. As a result the unauthorised use became immune from enforcement action. In her report, issued today (20 April 2012), Anne Seex says that “losing planning control over the use of land as an airfield is an extreme and most serious failure of planning administration.”
Bagby Airfield had a planning permission, granted in 1980, limited to a named person and to the number of flights (40 take-offs and 40 landings a week). The named person left the airfield in 1997 but flights continued. The airfield had operated in contravention of that permission.
The Council never monitored the number of take-offs and landings, although Government guidance says that planning conditions should be enforceable. There is no definitive record of the number of flights in any given period during the time the airfield has been operating. The current operator and the Council have both put forward estimates, but none have been agreed. Both sets of estimates indicate that there has frequently and significantly been more than the 40 take offs and 40 landings per week originally permitted.
The Council has missed a number of opportunities to notice the unlawful use and to take appropriate action:
- From 1980 to 1997 council officers did not check on the personal element of the planning permission. Then in 1996/97 they knew the individual named in the planning permission would no longer be involved, but did nothing about the fact the planning permission was limited to him personally.
- In 2001, they told the operator he needed planning permission but took no further action.
- In 2005, the Enforcement Officer wrongly assessed that he 1980 planning permission still applied.
As a result the unauthorised use became immune from enforcement action and the Council has lost planning control over the number of aircraft using the airfield.
Planning control is particularly important because the Civil Aviation Authority cannot regulate the airfield and there is no power to enforce against noise created in the air.
The Council’s maladministration has caused residents in the area the injustice of disturbance from flights and a sense of frustration and apprehension about the possibility of uncontrolled future expansion.
The Ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends the Council should:
- consider taking action to try to stop the current use, and
- provide funding of up to £5,000 for each village of Bagby and Thirkleby for projects of community benefit agreed with the respective parish councils.
Report ref no 11 006 363