This page will continually be added to as new information becomes available, or new questions arise.
Last Update: 11/10/2019
De-registration of Blackbushe Airport from Yateley Common
In early 2016 plans were submitted to Hart District Council for the future development of Blackbushe Airport (See Vision). These plans outlined the proposal to build new hangars, offices and a replacement Terminal facility on the south side of the airfield, adjacent to the A30. When this development proposal was presented to both Hart District Council and later to the Blackbushe Airport Consultative Committee, it was met with a favourable response. However, one concern that was raised in both meetings was the need to also satisfy the requirements of the Commons Act 2006.
Application to De-Register
The Airport and our legal team reviewed carefully the complexities of the Commons Act 2006 to determine the most appropriate action. Our determination was that the only satisfactory way of doing this was to seek to de-register the land that the airfield occupies, (see the map below). De-registration of the land that the airfield occupies would allow the building works to proceed.
In October 2016 an application was submitted to Hampshire County Council under Paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 of the Commons Act 2006 to de-register the 114.87 acres comprising the active airfield from the common land register. Under the conditions of the Commons Act 2006, this application had to be made to the commons registry authority, in this case Hampshire County Council (HCC). At this time, HCC indicated it would be unlikely that they would be able to impartially decide the case, and would most likely be referred to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for decision.
A public consultation was held from 24th August to 8th October 2017 in which members of the public, and other interested parties were invited to respond to HCC. These responses were collated and provided to Blackbushe Airport on 21st December 2017. They consisted of 103 objections, and 10 letters of support. On 1st February 2018 Blackbushe Airport provided a response to these objections to HCC. A copy of this letter can be viewed here.
Referral to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS)
Because one registered “commoner” objected, HCC were required to refer our case to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) , which they did on 9th July 2018. PINS formally accepted our case on the 6th August 2018.
On 6th September 2018 PINS confirmed that a public inquiry will be held, and on 18th October 2018 they announced it would be held commencing 2nd April 2019 at The Elvetham Hotel.
The inquiry commenced on Tuesday 2nd April 2019. Parties to the inquiry were:
Blackbushe Airport Ltd - Represented by Douglas Edwards QC
The Open Spaces Society (OSS) - Represented by Philip Petchey
Mr Peter J Tipton (Commoner)
Councillor Adrian Collett
Councillor David Simpson
The Commons Registration Authority
Hampshire County Council (HCC) - Represented by George Lawrence QC
The inquiry concluded on Friday 5th April 2019. The Inspector undertook an accompanied site visit on Thursday 4th April 2019 with representatives from OSS and HCC, as well as Blackbushe Airport.
On Wednesday 12th June 2019 the Planning Inspectorate issued their decision which granted the application to deregister.
On 6th September 2019 a Judicial Review Claim Form was submitted by Hampshire County Council against the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with regards to the decision made by the Inspector. Blackbushe Airport Ltd was informed of this on the 11th September 2019. The claim will be reviewed in the High Court and whilst not the defendant, Blackbushe Airport Ltd will actively participate as an interested party.
In summary, the Airport only seeks to re-develop the airfield itself, to provide better facilities and to generate future employment for the area, without having a detrimental impact on the local community and its recreational activities.
For more information on the future plans for Blackbushe, please visit www.blackbusheairport.co.uk/vision
Blackbushe Airport is committed to engaging with the local community. If you would like to know more, or if you have a question you would like us to answer, please attend one of our biennial Consultative Committee meetings (see here for the next meeting).
If you are unable to make a Consultative Committee meeting, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email: email@example.com
Frequently asked questions
WHO OWNS BLACKBUSHE AIRPORT?
The land occupied by Blackbushe Airport is owned by Falcon Propco 4 Ltd. It is leased to Blackbushe Airport Ltd who operate the active airport. Both Falcon Propco 4 Ltd and Blackbushe Airport Ltd are owned by a group of investors led by Sir Peter Ogden. Our investors have worked together for several decades in various aspects of the aviation and facilities management industries.
DON’T BLINK OWN BLACKBUSHE AIRPORT?
Our shareholders founded Blink, the air taxi service based at Blackbushe Airport between 2008 and 2018. However, in 2016 Blink Ltd was sold to a French operator of similar aircraft, Wijet. At this point the Blackbushe Airport shareholders no longer had an involvement in Blink Ltd. After the sale, Wijet remained a tenant of Blackbushe Airport, and the aircraft remained a regular sight. Ultimately Wijet’s owners decided to place the Blink Ltd business into administration in June 2018, vacating the office space and making all of their UK staff redundant.
HOW DOES THE LOSS OF WIJET AFFECT THE AIRPORT?
Blackbushe Airport was aware of the decisions being taken by the new owners, and shielded itself appropriately. Whilst Wijet were a large customer, and brought significant revenue to Blackbushe, the airport continues to welcome a variety of business aviation traffic. Recent efforts by the new Blackbushe management team have increased revenues in this area, despite the loss of Wijet. Wijet’s competitors have been able to continue to service the regular Blackbushe customers ensuring Blackbushe remains a popular choice of airport to service London and the south. The office space previously occupied by Wijet has now mostly been re-let to a range of new tenants.
WHAT LAND DOES BLACKBUSHE AIRPORT OWN?
The owners of Blackbushe Airport own all of the land marked in the map (see right) outlined in red and yellow. This includes the active airport, as well as the disused runways to the north, which the general public have free access to enjoy.
WHAT AREA DOES THE “ACTIVE AIRPORT” COVER?
The active airport is the area shown within the red lines on the map to the right.
HOW ARE BRITISH CAR AUCTIONS (BCA) AFFILIATED WITH THE AIRPORT?
BCA owned the airport for many years, but sold all of their interest in the airport and its land to the current owners in 2015. BCA no longer have any affiliation with the airport.
WHY DID BLACKBUSHE MARKET CLOSE?
The market was a popular attraction for many years. It was located on the land still owned by BCA to the north of the active runway. The decision to close the market in 2015 was not that of Blackbushe Airport or its current owners.
WHY ISN’T BLACKBUSHE FINANCIALLY SUSTAINABLE IN IT’S CURRENT FORM?
Under BCA’s ownership the airport benefited from the use of two large hangars to the north west of the site. These were occupied by a major helicopter maintenance organisation, and brought in a substantial rental income in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. This rental income was the difference between the airport making a modest profit, and making a substantial loss.
When the airport was sold in 2015, BCA did not offer for sale these hangars, as they had a value to them supporting their auction business. Since this time the airport has made a substantial loss (in the hundreds of thousands) each year.
Most other airports receive a rental income that accounts for around 50% of their revenue. This ensures they have a guaranteed income, and are not vulnerable to weather and other factors that might cause aircraft operations to fluctuate. At Blackbushe, our rental income accounts for 11.5% of our revenue, and we do not have a stable income source.
WHY ARE YOU SEEKING TO DE-REGISTER THE COMMON LAND?
Blackbushe Airport has a vision for the future of the airport to ensure the business is sustainable. This involves upgrading the current facilities, and adding hangars and other facilities. The current status of the land means it is prohibited to build new structures of any kind.
ARE YOU SEEKING TO DE-REGISTER THE NORTH SIDE, OR THE DISUSED RUNWAYS?
No, there is no intention to de-register any of the land outside the red area marked on the map. The area subject to the common land application, (the actual airfield), is the part of the land over which there has been no free access to the public since the airport was built in 1941. It is an active airfield and safety concerns and requirements clearly prevent any uncontrolled access. The application area does not include the area to the north of the earth bank boundary. This is the area of the Common to which the public have enjoyed free access for many years, and includes the disused runways. There are no plans to apply to change this. In recent years, Blackbushe Airport has actively managed this area, in partnership with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust, for the good of the Common. This will continue.
THERE ARE ALREADY HANGARS AT BLACKBUSHE AIRPORT, WHY DO YOU NEED MORE?
The hangars that sit to the north of the runway are owned by BCA and sit entirely within their land. There is no opportunity for Blackbushe to acquire these now or in the future.
WHY ARE YOU SEEKING TO DE-REGISTER THE ENTIRE AIRPORT SITE? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST APPLY TO DE-REGISTER THE FOOTPRINT OF THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT?
Along with the development of new facilities, there are several areas that require essential maintenance. For example, runway lighting is in desperate need of replacement, with the cost running to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Blackbushe Airport has been the victim of vandalism, as we are prohibited to add new fencing on common land. In order to protect our investments, as well as the health and safety of airport users and the public enjoying the north side, it is imperative that we can erect proper security fencing.
The Commons Act prevents the carrying out of any “works” on common land. This includes adding any kind of structures, including new hard standing areas for aircraft, or adding any additional infrastructure. It would be impractical to seek to de-register small sections of land each time minor works are required.
WHY ISN’T A LAND EXCHANGE BEING OFFERED?
There are two ways to remove common land status from a piece of land. The most frequently used is a land exchange. This was our initial and favoured option, however after exploration, it was not viable for our situation
114.87 acres of land are not immediately available adjacent to Yateley Common. As was recognised at a recent meeting of the Yateley Neighbourhood Plan steering group, land in Yateley is either already built on, registered common, or owned by land developers who intend to develop it.
Any small pockets of land that might be available either:
Would not pass the required tests for de-registration based on Commons Act criteria (location suitability etc)
Would not be sufficient for the required development
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GET PLANNING PERMISSION TO BUILD YOUR DEVELOPMENT?
The planning system and the Commons Act are two entirely different areas of legislation. As an airport, we are able to build any aviation related structures without the need for planning permission, as such developments fall under permitted development rights. However, such permitted development rights conflict with the Commons Act 2006 which prohibits works of any kind on a common land. Whilst there is a process for seeking permission for works on common land, the act only provides a mechanism to do so to support normal common land activities, such as the management of livestock, or the maintenance of footpaths. There is no mechanism at all for seeking planning permission to build on land registered as common.
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST APPLY TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PERMISSION TO BUILD?
At a meeting of the Blackbushe Airport Consultative Committee on the 3rd October 2018, this question was raised by Cllr David Simpson, Hampshire County Councillor for Hartley Wintney & Yateley West (Lib Dem).
Unfortunately under the Commons Act, there are no provisions which allow for the discretion of the secretary of state. It is also currently not the policy of the Secretary of State to permit such a development. See the Common Land Consents Policy (last revised November 2015).
If a secretary of state were to offer such permission, this would be without precedent, and subject to legal challenge by opposition (which we anticipate would be likely). In matters such as this, the Secretary of State defers such decisions to the Planning Inspectorate who can decide a case on the facts presented, and without political bias. As such, we believe the application is in the correct place to be heard fairly.
IF COMMON LAND STATUS IS REMOVED, DOESN’T BLACKBUSHE AIRPORT BECOME VULNERABLE TO HOUSING?
The owners of Blackbushe Airport have no intention of developing Blackbushe into anything other than a General Aviation airport. For the past decade the shareholders have been involved with Blackbushe, and been seeking to develop the potential that is clearly available. They have presented this plan in the vision document, and have of course been frustrated the common land status has prevented them from realising it so far.
Simply removing the common land status does not immediately expose the airport to development for other uses. Any such development would be subject to a change of use application, as well as full planning consent granted by the local authorities. The local authorities have been very clear in their desire to see Blackbushe retained as an airport and not developed for housing or other purposes.
The National Planning Policy Framework also places an obligation on local councils to:
“recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields", and their need to adapt and change over time - taking into account their economic value in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs, and the Government’s General Aviation Strategy”
National Planning Policy Framework July 2018 Paragraph 104 section (f)
The site at Blackbushe does not conform with government planning strategy which favours the gradual expansion of existing towns and villages through sustainable developments. Blackbushe Airport is bounded by common to the North and East, by BCA and the Castle Bottom Nature Reserve to the West, and by Minley Manor and the Gibraltar Barracks to the south, and so any development would be isolated and would not have any community amenities on which to rely.
At a meeting of the Blackbushe Consultative Committee Meeting on 3rd October 2018, several members, including Cllr David Simpson also confirmed their view that it was almost inconceivable the land could be used for housing. They expressed concern that the site might become a business park or other industrial area in the event the airport closed.
WILL THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT BRING ADDITIONAL AIRCRAFT NOISE POLLUTION?
Blackbushe Airport has a very clear noise abatement policy, and we find this to be very effective. We receive very few complaints, and often those complaints that do come in, relate to aircraft not arriving or departing from Blackbushe. The objective of this development is to grow revenue by encouraging small aviation businesses to base themselves at Blackbushe.
This doesn't mean increased traffic. For example, attracting maintenance providers to Blackbushe, would remove the need for aircraft to position elsewhere, and decrease movements. Parking an aircraft outside exposes it to the elements and can cause technical issues if the aircraft does not fly regularly. Most owners or operators who use their aircraft infrequently will only consider airports with hangars. We estimate an aircraft in a hangar typically flies around 4 times a month. For these reasons we anticipate total movements staying at a similar level seen in the past few years.
ARE YOU GOING TO INCREASE THE LENGTH OF THE RUNWAY?
Aside from the physical impossibilities of building a longer runway (the land at either end is owned by BCA and Hampshire County Council), there is no intention to build a longer runway. We believe that the current runway is perfectly adequate to support the vision we have for the airport.
Does the Decision of the Planning Inspectorate to allow the deregistration of the airport land set a dangerous precedent for other common land sites?
This argument has been made by several parties, including Cllr Adrian Collett at a meeting of Hampshire County Council on 18th July 2019 (1:26:00) and by Cllr David Simpson on several occasions, most recently at the Blackbushe Airport Consultative Committee meeting on 10th October 2019. Comparisons were made to village greens on which a hut, shed, or pavilion might stand, or to golf courses, on which a clubhouse might stand. There are several points in answer to this question:
The situation of Blackbushe Airport is very unique. In his decision, the Inspector found there to be a relationship of functional equivalence between the Terminal Building and the rest of the airport infrastructure laid out across the site. All of these elements combine to make the aerodrome meet the requirements of an Airport capable of accepting international flights. All of the equipment and infrastructure is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and is necessary to meet the requirements of being an Airport (as opposed to an airfield or airstrip).
By contrast, there is unlikely to be similar regulation with respect to leisure facilities such as golf clubs, cricket greens etc. If such organisations were to bring claims under the same piece of legislation, they would need to convince an Inspector based on their unique facts that their land fell within the curtilage of a building. It is clear to see that such cases could be easily distinguished from the case of Blackbushe Airport based on the facts of each case.
Schedule 2 Paragraph 6 of the Commons Act 2006 is applicable only to applications received between November 2014 and December 2020. Therefore the future applicability of any perceived precedent will be limited in scope.
Crucially also, the decision of one Inspector is not binding on another. However, by seeking a Judicial Review, HCC risk setting a precedent in the High Court, if the decision of the inspector is upheld. This decision would be binding on all other Planning Inspectors.