Building houses on Filton Airfield will create ‘traffic nightmare’, say campaigners
A PLANNING inspector is being urged to drive through Bristol's northern fringe during the rush hour to experience the daily traffic chaos.
He will be deciding during the next few months whether to give his backing to a planning blueprint for South Gloucestershire which includes the future of Filton Airfield.
But campaigners who are trying to save the airstrip say if thousands of new homes are built there, it would create an "intractable" traffic problem.
The campaigners say in a statement: "In total, more than 8,000 houses are planned on and around the airfield site.
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"This is made up of 3,500 at New Charlton, 1,000 at Haw Wood, 1,000 at Cribbs Causeway, plus 2,500 already in progress at Charlton Hayes.
"This is clearly going to result in increased traffic in the area and surely this presents a problem which is intractable.
"The area is surrounded by key routes which are already badly congested. We recommend the inspector makes a few journeys in the area during the rush hours to see this for himself."
The campaigners say the suggested solution for easing traffic is the return of passenger trains on the Henbury railway line.
But they say opening up the line might be an excellent idea but it will not remove enough traffic to solve the problem.
A date for the inspector's Examination in Public has not yet been set but is likely to be during the next few months.
He will decide whether the council's "core strategy" can be officially adopted, including opening the door to 2,500 new homes on the 350-acre airfield site.
The airfield's owner, BAE Systems, announced last year that it planned to close it down in December because it was no longer viable. It argued the land would be better used – not just for housing – but for creating thousands of jobs by setting up an aerospace enterprise zone as well as an aviation museum for Concorde, community facilities and open spaces.
The Save Filton Airfield pressure group says the planning process appears to have fallen down because it has been driven by what is best for a private company, not necessarily what is in the best interests of the community.
They say: "BAE Systems is, possibly reasonably, trying to maximise its revenue from the sale of an asset which it no longer desires. Save Filton Airfield does not believe it should be the role of a planning authority to assist it in that.
"Instead, the authority should come to a view on what would be best for the region. This view should be driven by input from the community, policies, guidance and neighbouring authorities.
"There could have been an investigation into buying the airfield – possibly a consortium of one or more of the local authorities – interested aviation companies and even the people of the region."
Tory and Lib Dem councillors who voted in favour of allowing new development on the airfield have argued the council would be in a much stronger position if the site was included in the core strategy because they would have a greater say in what was built there.
They have also said that as the airfield was privately owned, then they have no power to decide whether it should close – they can only do what they can to control what goes there in the future.
The campaigners will tell the inspector at the inquiry that a business case can be made out to keep the airfield. They say despite the recession, air travel is set to double by the year 2030. They argue that there is a viable case for the airfield to stay open by developing maintenance and research work; business shuttle flights; transporting Airbus wing sections; approach training; medical flights; operating two emergency helicopters; pilot training and leisure flying; utilising the Brabazon Hanger for commercial uses; greater use of the fuel test facility; military training flights.