Important economic information on Redhill aerodrome hard runway application kept secret
Redhill Aerodrome has been trying to get a hard surfaced runway to replace its current three grass runways for many years. It submitted an application in July 2011, which was refused by Tandridge District Council (TDC) and Reigate & Banstead Council (R&B). Redhill Aerodrome then submitted a very slightly changed application in June 2012. The concrete runway would enable the aerodrome to increase flights from 60,000 to 85,000 a year including larger planes. There are problems with the application in relation to drainage and a local brook, as well as traffic impacts. But the aerodrome was asked by the councils to supply more detailed information on future activities of the aerodrome. This information is being used to back up the aerodrome’s claim for special grounds for building in the Green Belt. The aerodrome asked both councils to sign a confidentiality agreement so that the economic information supplied (eg. employment) would not be published. R&B signed the agreement, but after taking legal advice Tandridge refused to do so. Local campaigners say the application cannot be assessed without access to the financial details including employment and impact on the economy.
Why was Redhill Aerodrome information kept secret?
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has come under fire for allowing information relating to a controversial proposal for a hard runway at Redhill Aerodrome to be hidden from the public.
Tandridge District Council refused the same request, on the grounds that the planning process should be transparent to all.
An application for a concrete runway at Redhill Aerodrome will be considered later this year
Both councils are set to consider whether or not Redhill Aerodrome Ventures (RAV) should be allowed to construct a concrete runway later this year.
Jon Horne, chief executive of the aerodrome in Kings Mill Lane, South Nutfield, wrote to both councils in December requesting written confirmation that some information relating to the economic case for the development could remain confidential.
Reigate and Banstead agreed, but Tandridge refused.
In a letter to the aerodrome’s agent sent last month, Charlotte Hammerton, planning applications team leader for Tandridge council, wrote: “In order to respond to this request, I sought advice from the council’s principal solicitor. His advice was that we could not give such an undertaking, due to the basis of planning law being that all planning decisions should be made in an open, transparent and accountable basis and that as such any documentation made available to officers and members should also be made available to our objectors and members of the public.”
She advised: “Any information provided should be either in the public realm already, or aggregated in such a way that it was not commercially sensitive to individual businesses.”
However, Reigate and Banstead took a different legal stance. Major projects planning officer Andrew Benson told the Mirror: “Redhill Aerodrome Ventures submitted a business plan in relation to the planning application.
“This contained confidential and commercially-sensitive information, and therefore it was not made public.
“The Freedom of Information Act allows such information to be treated confidentially.”
Keep Redhill Airfield Green (Krag), which uncovered the anomaly between the two authorities, said it was “appalled” at Reigate and Banstead’s agreement to conceal the information.
Treasurer Stephen Hanks called on the council to make the information public.
He said: “There is clearly a transparency, even a fairness, issue. As the business plan is so fundamental to the application, regarding building in the green belt, it is very important that openness and transparency prevails. There is a moral issue here, as well as potentially a legal issue.”
The business case is central to the runway plans. Mr Horne argues the £6 million project will protect hundreds of existing jobs and create more than 100 new ones.
“Very special circumstances” need to be met for development of green belt land to be permitted.
Local Parish Council and others fiercely contested the action taken by R&B on the grounds that the economic plan was central to the applicant’s claims for a special case to build in the Green Belt – eg. job creation. They wrote to the planners at R&B pointing out that this was undemocratic and asking to see the economic plan. Andrew Benson (Major Development Performance Manager at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council) said “I’m very sorry but I cannot divulge commercially sensitive and confidential information. I will contact the applicants to determine whether a doctored version of the information can be made publicly available with the commercially sensitive information removed but I am not sure that this will leave much of interest.” KRAG wrote to the Surrey Mirror and they did an excellent quarter page article on 5th March (above) that highlighted R&B’s action.
The possibility was mentioned of reminding R&B about the Environmental Information Regulations of 2004 link by which local authories have a duty to make environmental information available on request, and within 20 working days.
Nutfield Parish Council wrote to Sam Gyimah, the Tandridge MP to object. Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council also wrote to R&B Council to object.
SCC has not responded yet to the application. Redhill Aerodrome may have put in a proposal to the Airports Commission (the deadline for any expressions of intent was 28th February) for their airfield to become a second runway and satellite link for Gatwick, which as been raised in the past.
Redhill Aerodrome applies yet again for a hard runway to replace 3 grass runways
31 July 2012 (BBC)
Owners of Redhill airfield, RAVL, have submitted a revised application for a hard runway after their first bid failed. They want to replace the 3 grass runways with a one concrete one, giving it potential to increase flights from 60,000 to 85,000 a year and for larger planes. Tandridge and Reigate councils turned down the original bid last year. The airfield think their new application “addressed the reasons for refusal in 2011″. As usual, they exaggerate the number of possible jobs that might be created – alleging it will increase the 450 jobs it supports today to some 590 in future – and attract investment to the area etc. Over 1,000 people opposed the original plans which were rejected last year, realising the plans would create an unacceptable level of noise and pollution, breach green belt restrictions, and destroy the landscape.
New Redhill Aerodrome hard runway application submitted in July