Decision to close airfield was flawed, inquiry told
SOUTH Gloucestershire Council's public consultation into the closure of Filton Airfield had "legal shortcomings", it has been claimed.
Bert Hindle, representing Save Filton Airfield, made the statement to a Government-appointed inspector at the start of a public inquiry into the council's development blueprint for the district.
During the 11-day inquiry, inspector Paul Crysell will consider the council's core strategy, or local plan, in detail and hear representations from members of the public, before making a recommendation to the council on whether the plan is "sound" and can be adopted for implementation.
As part of the inquiry, Mr Crysell is to look at the controversial use of the airfield for housing, with objectors hoping it will lead to a reversal of the council's original decision to include it in their blueprint.
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On the first day of the inquiry yesterday, Mr Crysell began by asking interested parties if anyone wanted to raise legal or procedural matters.
He said: "A number of local groups have said that the council has not consulted properly. Save Filton Airfield say that the council pre-judged the airfield for housing, without looking at any viable alternatives."
Mr Hindle told the inspector: "Our belief is that there was a pre-determination based on the closure of the airfield. The council had already decided it would be used for housing without thoroughly considering an aviation strategy for Filton.
"We believe information given to the public at the 'community consultations' was based on information only taken from BAE systems and their representatives. No thought was given to what the closure would do to the local economy.
"There was a petition signed by 3,600 people objecting to the closure of the airfield. More than 70 per cent objected to its designation as a redevelopment opportunity.
"South Gloucestershire Council never seems to have addressed this."
Patrick Conroy, representing the council, told the inspector: "We reject the claim that we failed to consult properly.
"The consultation was thorough, extensive and objective and was carried out in a fair way. All of the information was presented to our elected members before any decision was made."
The core strategy lays out the council's vision for development, housing, transport and infrastructure over the next 14 years. It was formally approved by the council in December and submitted to the Government inspector in February.
For more information visit www.southglos.gov.uk/corestrategy.