CAMPAIGNERS and pilots are preparing for a decisive battle over an airfield, after the Government ordered a third public inquiry in two years into its use.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said a planning inspector would decide if Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk, should lose its helicopter fuel facility and be restricted to 71 flight movements a week on its remaining runway.

If the Hambleton District Council enforcement notices are upheld by the inspector, the airfield’s main revenue-generating stream, the provision of jet fuel, will be plugged, ending its economic viability with the loss of about ten jobs.

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The decision to hold an inquiry has been described by both the airfield’s owner, Martin Scott, and campaigners as being the climax of an acrimonious six-year battle over the airfield.

The inquiry is expected to focus on claims by some residents in nearby Bagby and Thirkleby that there has been an increase in flights to and from the grass airstrip since Mr Scott bought the airfield in 2007.

He intends to show the planning inspector how flight movements had fallen from 11,000 in 2003 to 7,500 last year and that fuel sales had dropped by almost 50 per cent in recent years.

Mr Scott said: “The airfield is dying and has been for a long time. Aircraft don’t run on air and the fuel sales show the incredibly successful campaign claiming a rise in movements is fiction.”

Stephen Hornsby, of Action4Refusal campaign group, welcomed the inquiry as a chance to ensure a ceiling on flight numbers.

He said: “We will hopefully get some resolution which will see the airfield used by hobbyists rather than acting as a hub which is totally unsuitable for a village environment.”

The inquiry is expected to be held in May at the Civic Centre, Stone Cross, Northallerton.