THE third public inquiry in 27 months over noise at a controversial airfield got under way today, resuming a bitter struggle between residents, a council and pilots.

As the four-day hearing at Hambleton District Council's headquarters started, it emerged the authority has spent more than £46,000 in the last two financial years on barristers, professional advice and other matters relating to Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk.

In the latest development, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles ruled a planning inspector would decide if the grass airstrip, which is used by trainers and jockeys to attend nearby race meetings, should lose its helicopter fuel facility and be restricted to 71 flight movements a week on its remaining runway.

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The airfield’s management said if the council’s enforcement notices are upheld by inspector Diane Lewis, the airfield's main revenue generating stream, the provision of jet fuel, will be cut, ending its economic viability with the loss of about ten jobs.

Ms Lewis said: “It seems to me the main issues are whether there has been an increase in flight movement from 3,678 to 7,044 a year, if there has been an introduction of a helicopter port or an increase of movement of helicopters, and if there has been a change of type or air craft using the airfield.”

Pilot David Thelwall told the hearing although there were some contradictions and inconsistencies in the logbooks for the airfield, over the past 17 years the number of take-offs and landings at the airfield had declined.

As Action4Refusal campaigners, who say aircraft engine noise has made their life a misery jeered, Mr Thelwall said: “Of 31 logbooks registered to the airfield in 2008 only nine planes were operating from Bagby – but all 31 contributed to the 2008 review.”

Barrister Giles Cannock, for the council, argued airfield owner Martin Scott had breached planning control by replacing a fuel facility at the airfield without permission.

He said: “The fuel facility generates air traffic movement (ATM) in its own right and is an intrinsic part of Bagby airfield so without it, it will close.

“We say the fuel facility generates ATM and limits should be attached.”

A Freedom of Information Act request by The Northern Echo has revealed the council had spent £19,962, the equivalent to more than 14 annual council tax payments for the average band D property, on barristers fees regarding the airfield before the start of the inquiry.

The council has also spent £26,337 on professional advice and other related matters over the same period.

Martin Scott, owner of the airfield since 2007, said the council had recently settled the amount of costs he had to pay from the previous public inquiry and that it had been “limited”.