Wiltshire village airfield keeps council's backing
A couple whose successful flying operation has divided opinion in their Wiltshire village has been given the go-ahead by councillors to carry on micro-lighting and sky-diving.
Some 22 people objected to Joe and Sarah Smith's application to continue storing their aircraft and equipment in two buildings at Redlands Farm, Wanborough near Swindon.
Objectors have for years complained that the microlights and sky-diving activities at Redlands airfield were responsible for noise and nuisance, and were also visually intrusive.
But the Smiths, who launched the flying business nearly 20 years ago on the back of government advice for farmers' to diversify, have won every planning battle they have fought to maintain the operation.
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Now Swindon borough council has unanimously given them the go-ahead to continue using an agricultural barn to store the aircraft, and to retain a temporary building for a similar purpose.
Objectors claimed the microlights and planes which carry sky-divers had a "continued adverse impact" on the locality.
This, they claimed, involved noise and visual intrusion from low-flying microlights and aircraft taking off and landing, causing "loss of peace, amenity and privacy".
One villager's letter to Swindon council's planning committee said: "Operations can take place up to 12 hours-a-day all year round."
Had the council refused permission for the aircraft, parachutes and other equipment to be safely stored in the buildings then it would have presented the owners with a major problem, potentially threatening the airfield's existence.
However, the council received 55 letters of support for the application as well as the backing of Wanborough parish council. The authority's environmental health department also had no objections.
Supporters said there had been no problems at the airfield, which brought employment, leisure and tourism to the area.
Some villagers said they enjoyed watching the aircraft skim through the skies above Wanborough. Supporters also described noise from the operation as minimal.
Backing the application, Swindon councillor Andrew Bennett, whose Ridgeway ward includes Wanborough, said that operations at Redlands had divided much of the village.
However, he said: "I think the relatively small number of objections are very substantially outweighed by the view in the village and the surrounding villages."
The couple have been operating aircraft from Redlands Airfield at their 150-acre dairy farm, near Junction 15 of the M4, for 19 years.
Looking for an additional source of income as revenue from the farming industry plunged, they started off with microlights and, aided with a Defra grant, later expanded to skydiving and a flying school.
Over the years some villagers, along with residents from East Swindon claimed their peace was regularly shattered by noisy aircraft.
In 2002 objectors raised a petition with almost 1,000 signatures calling for the skydiving to be banned. However, scores of villagers wrote to the council supporting the airfield activities.
Swindon councillors gave permission for both the microlight school and skydiving after environmental health officers monitored the noise.