PLANS to transform facilities at a small airfield which has been beset by controversy for more than a decade have been recommended for approval.

Hambleton District Council’s planning team has recommended a proposal to bulldoze Bagby Airfield’s clubhouse, control tower, hangars and storage buildings and to build and transform others is approved.

Campaigners who have battled development plans by solicitor Martin Scott, the owner of the 15-hectare airfield near Thirsk, said should the latest plan be passed by councillors they will press for the Government to launch a fifth public inquiry into the airfield’s use.

The application, set to be decided by councillors on Thursday, is the fourth plan that has been submitted for comprehensive redevelopment of the airfield since 2008, but continues to be contentious. The proposal has generated 87 letters of objection and 134 of support.

Supporters of the airfield have pointed to its importance as a transport hub and workplace and have said the vast array of proposed restrictions for aircraft movements should alleviate concerns and “lead to the end of the lack of harmony in the village”.

A spokesman for Mr Scott said the proposal aimed to improve the services and amenities for the airfield’s users, as well as establishing a lawful level of use – up to 8,440 take-offs and landings annually.

Alongside a range of restrictions to limit flight movements, should the application be approved, the airfield would have to install aircraft surveillance cameras and virtual radar and provide data from them on a publicly accessible website.

Mr Scott’s spokesman said the proposal would benefit the local economy and could create numerous jobs in the area, while not materially increasing flight movements.

However, some residents said while they did not believe the airfield would ever make a significant difference to the local economy, they had no confidence in the council’s ability to enforce restrictions on flight movements.

Bagby and Thirkleby parish councils have lodged numerous objections to the proposal, including long-held concerns over noise from overflying of the village by aircraft.

A DISPUTE between the owner of Bagby Airfield, some residents of two North Yorkshire villages and Hambleton District Council’s planning team, is set to resume, more than a decade after erupting. 

Here are some of the key events and decisions over the grass airstrip near Thirsk:

  • May 2008: Villagers launch campaign to stop airfield expanding after plans to build a replacement clubhouse with leisure facilities and accommodation and seven hangars are revealed.
  • April 2009: Planning application to transform facilities at the airfield is unanimously rejected by council planners, who claim they would lead to over-developmment.
  • August 2009: Yorkshire Air Ambulance announces it will open an operational base at the airfield, which offered the charity its facilities for free.
  • June 2011:  Appeal over plan for three-bedroom clubhouse, with extended aircraft hangars and a helicopter landing pad dismissed after public inquiry.
  • September 2011: Father of a girl whose life was saved by the Yorkshire Air Ambulance has appealed for a rethink after Hambleton councillors launch enforcement action at the charity’s only base in England’s largest county.
  • December 2011: Yorkshire Air Ambulance quits airfield after Hambleton District Council serves 14 enforcement notices on the grass airstrip.
  • June 2012: Council apologises for causing years of distress to residents of Bagby and Thirkleby after being condemned by ombudsman for losing control of planning at airfield and its  “extreme and most serious failure” to restrict flight numbers to 80 a week.
  • August 2012: Second public inquiry into airfield upholds eight enforcement actions by council, but allows appeal to enable helicopters to use the airstrip.
  • November 2012: Thirkleby residents urged to unite behind a plan to bolster the community after bitter rows over future of airfield.
  • January 2014: Third public inquiry accepts appeal against council’s enforcement action to limit the number of flights at arfield, but rejects appeal over the authority’s enforcement notice to remove its jet fuel facility.
  • April 2014: Council admits its enforcement action to limit flight movements at airfield to 3,700 annually had failed after Government planning inspector ruled the grass airstrip could be used at least 7,228 times a year without breaching planning control.
  • February 2016:  Airfield’s owner reveals new plan to demolish clubhouse, control tower and three hangars, changing the use of buildings and erecting others at the 15.6-hectare site.
  • February 2017: Fourth public inquiry into airfield overturns council’s enforcement actions over claims part of a taxiway had been widened by 90cm and that two 13,000-litre fuel tanks attached to agricultural trailers should be removed.