This document has been prepared to allow Hart District Council, local Parish Councils and local residents understand the proposed changes at Blackbushe. There has been so little investment at the Airport for so long that undoubtedly there will be concern to understand what is being proposed. This Vision explains in a transparent way the nature of the
proposed changes over the next 10 years.
Like other Airports, Blackbushe benefits from planning permitted development rights which allow changes related to airport operations (subject to certain limitations) to be undertaken without the need for express planning permission.
Blackbushe intends to use these permitted development rights but this document has been prepared to provide the context. Following the preparation of this Vision document, the Airport will formally consult the District Council, in line with the provisions of Class F1 of Part 8 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015.
In summary, the proposals set out above would not lead to major change at Blackbushe, but will enable the site to be brought up to more modern standards and for rationalisation of the existing airport site. They will also help to sustain existing jobs and allow for a limited increase in jobs and resulting economic benefits.
This part of the Vision therefore quantifies the scale of potential change and then examines the effects of this change on the environment around Blackbushe.
No significant growth in aviation activity is predicted. Aircraft maintenance operations do not attract significant movements. As there are currently no maintenance facilities at Blackbushe, they would, in fact, avoid the need for aircraft currently based at the site to fly out for servicing and maintenance and then back again. No significant change is expected in the mix of aircraft using the site although improved maintenance services may, over time, lead to a general upgrading of the fleet of home based aircraft at the site. Access to aviation support services does encourage aircraft owners and operators to invest in their businesses.
There will be a modest increase in people working at the site. Aircraft maintenance activities are quite low density but the additional facilities could lead to an additional 150-200 jobs, which would primarily be in the specialist skilled engineering sector. There would be a small increase in traffic accessing the site although it is important to note that there is currently no limit on activity and this used to be greater in the past (around the year 2000 there were double the number of aircraft movements at Blackbushe). In addition, the scale of the increase associated with the new hangars would only represent a very small amount of the total number of vehicles currently using the A30 in the vicinity of the site.
The following environmental matters have been examined in order to come to the conclusion that EIA is not required for the proposed development. Hart Council issued a determination to this effect on 22nd July 2016.
The most important environmental concern at Blackbushe relates to the natural heritage. As shown in the plan overleaf, a small area of the airport is within the Castle Bottom to Yateley and Hawley Common site of special scientific interest (SSSI), part of the Thames Basin Heaths special protection area (SPA), both statutory designations. Much of the rest of the grassland within the Airport is identified as a site of importance for nature conservation (SINC), a local designation.
The SSSI / SPA was immediately discounted as appropriate for any development. Land to the north of the operational airport which is not SSSI/SPA contains areas of hardstanding which originally formed part of the operational airport. However the sensitivity of this area directed the vision for development to be concentrated further south in order to minimise impacts on natural heritage. This area is also well used by the local community for recreational purposes.
Therefore, the area identified for development is outside the statutorily designated areas.
The SSSI/SPA habitat is potentially sensitive to changes in air quality, as a result of effects from atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Emissions from aircraft and vehicle movements can contribute to the level of deposition. Screening for appropriate assessment (Habitat Regulation Assessment) will be undertaken for any proposal brought forward by the airport that would result in significant increases in traffic or aviation. However as only small increases in road traffic and no significant increase in aircraft movements are anticipated, it is unlikely that the proposed changes will give rise to implications relating to the interest features of the SSSI/SPA.
Blackbushe Airport and Natural England entered into a Conservation and Enhancement Scheme in December 2015 in order to maintain and restore open heathland on both the SINC and SSSI, remove scrub to improve the habitat for SPA birds and carry out gorse coppicing to benefit Dartford Warblers and improve heathland habitat. The airport also agreed to commission a five-year management plan incorporating airport operational requirements to inform future management of the site. This agreement balances the needs of the airport to continue cutting grass for safety reasons with the protection of the important habitats surrounding the site.
Traffic & Transport
Blackbushe Airport currently handles between 28,000 and 36,000 aircraft movements (a movement is either a take-off or landing) annually. Approximately 97% of these are private aircraft or related to the flying schools’ activities, with ‘touch-and-go’ circuits accounting for over half of these movements. The Airport also handles commercial passenger flights
and in 2017 it had 1,109 such movements.
Although the number of additional aircraft movements is not known precisely, the sizes of aircraft using the site will remain the same and it is anticipated that the commercial flight numbers will remain at a similar level.
The airport is accessed from the A30, a two-way single carriageway road. The development at the airport has the potential to result in small increases in both visitors and airport employees. There is already a high traffic flow on the A30, the increase in staff and visitors is unlikely to be substantial in relation to the background traffic levels.
Noise and Vibration
There are limited receptors for noise surrounding the airport. The predominant existing noise sources at the site include traffic on the A30 and aircraft movements. There are currently a number of operational controls in effect at the Airport to limit the effects for aviation noise, including restrictions on operating hours, the types of aircraft using the site and controls on ground activities. These will not change.
Any potential noise and vibration effects of constructing the proposed development can be controlled through standard proven construction methodologies. There may be limited noise associated with construction HGV traffic; however, as vehicle movements during the construction phase are unlikely to be significant in the context of the baseline traffic flows.
Post-construction, small increases in traffic and aircraft movements are expected. The operational restrictions will remain in place to control aviation-related noise (including ground based activities).
The airport is not within or adjacent to an air quality management area; the closest is in Frimley, approximately 6km from Blackbushe Airport. Construction of the proposed development has the potential to give rise to fugitive dust emissions. Standard and proven construction methodologies will be used to minimise any effects.
There are no cultural heritage designations within the wider Airport boundary. Whilst much of the proposed development is on previously developed land the degree to which the ground has been disturbed is uncertain and therefore it is possible that previously undiscovered archaeological remains to be present on the site.
There are two listed buildings within 1km of the southern boundary, a scheduled monument within 1.5km and three registered parks and gardens within 5km. The airport development will not significantly increase the scale or nature of the airport such that might affect views from these features, if there are views from these features, the development will be seen in front of the existing airport buildings and will not significantly increase the scale of the airport in these views.
There are opportunities in the new café and passenger facility to provide more information about the history of the site and ensure this is celebrated in an appropriate manner.
Landscape and Visual Impact
The Airport and the BCA site are notable features in the landscape. The visual envelope of the airport and areas proposed for development is considered to be largely restricted to views from users of the airport and the footpaths/common land in the immediate locality. There is potential for glimpsed views of the proposals for users of the A30 but these will be in context of the existing operations at the Airport.
There is one public right of way (PROW) running through the site, which crosses the main runway of Blackbushe Airport before passing into the BCA site. The BCA proposals have highlighted the need to address this and this PROW may be diverted to the east and north of the active airport area and around the BCA site or an alternative route may be provided.
A second PROW runs north/south through the SSSI adjacent to the eastern boundary of the wider airport, close to the development site. Additionally, land to the east and north of the Blackbushe Airport operational area is common land and crisscrossed by a number of informal paths. It is accepted that the experience of those using these footpaths and open access areas may be altered as a result of the proposals. However, in all cases the proposals will be seen in the context of the existing operations at the Airport.
Water Environment and Ground Conditions
The airport is within flood zone 1 (at low risk from flooding) and there are no watercourses or water bodies within the Airport. The Airport lies on a secondary aquifer of high vulnerability. Standard and proven construction methodologies are available to minimise the potential for adverse effects of water quality during construction.
There is the potential for historic contamination within the airport, however, with the site being underlain by free-draining gravel this is considered to be a very low risk. The historic military use of the site also gives rise to the possibility of unexploded ordnance to be present on the site. However, this is considered to be a very low risk and appropriate
precautions will be employed during the construction phase.
The proposals will be linked to the Airport’s existing drainage and foul drainage systems, which will be upgraded as necessary to accommodate the proposed development. The maintenance hangars will be constructed and designed in line with industry standards to ensure operations within the structure are controlled such that no adverse effects on the water environment during operations are expected.
The development site is in excess of 1ha therefore a flood risk assessment will be submitted in support of the planning application. The proposed development will incorporate sustainable drainage techniques with best practice pollution control measures where possible to control runoff rates and prevent water pollution post-construction.