Keep Airfields Greenfields

GAAC has been working on airfield protection for many years but the battle is far from over. An example of GAAC’s work was organising a petition in 2015 which gathered more than 20,000 signatures. The result is still online on the UK Parliament website.

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View the petition here!

Historical Background

In 2003 an ‘administrative oversight’ led to the deletion of a footnote in PPG3, noting that airfields and hospital grounds should not be considered as appropriate brownfield sites. Current definitions of previously developed land make no reference to airfields or flying sites. As a result, developers and local planning authorities are increasingly and inappropriately treating airfields as brownfield sites for land redevelopment, leading both to the loss of an important part of national transport infrastructure and the destruction of significant areas of natural habitat within airfield boundaries.

The UK network of GA aerodromes is regarded by DfT as an important part of the national transport infrastructure. While Commercial Air Transport or airline operations are focussed on scheduled flights from just 25 airports around the UK, General Aviation with smaller aircraft types uses more than 120 aerodromes licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority for non-scheduled passenger carrying and between 350 and 500 unlicensed flying sites.

This network of GA aerodromes around the UK has been recognised by DfT as providing vital amenities for sport flying, connectivity for business travellers and acting as an important part of the national transport infrastructure; providing economic benefits and ‘point to point’ access. This allows passengers and cargoes to be delivered closer to their ultimate destination, reducing time, cost, fuel use and emissions.

They also provide important infrastructure and support for activities such as police and pollution patrols, medical flights, aerial surveys, and search and rescue operations. In recent years however a significant number of airfields have closed and others have been threatened as a result of owners seeking to release the value of their land and local planning authorities prioritising housing and other development on the land they occupy.

It is noteworthy that the curtilage of many airfields is now being recognised as an important ‘open green space’ by many Local Planning Authorities and there is increasing evidence from local nature and environmental surveys that airfields are increasingly important as a low-insecticide, low-herbicide, sanctuary for plants, insects and associated wildlife.

In July 2015, organisations involved in every spectrum of aviation were shocked by the proposal in the Chancellor’s summer budget statement to allow automatic planning permission to be granted for housing developments on designated brownfield sites. This unintended consequence of wider policy on the development of redundant industrial sites was described by ‘Pilot’ magazine as “the darkest news to face General Aviation for some time”.

In August 2015 a Parliamentary Petition was initiated to: “Demand a review of the brownfield designation of airfields in recognition of the role that they play both as an important part of our national transport infrastructure and as an important yet often overlooked environmental green space”. The petition gained over 10,000 signatories in its first 72 hours.

For more information please contact John Gilder or Charles Henry, Chairman, General Aviation Awareness Council at

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