Fairoaks 2020, the volunteer campaign group fighting plans to close Fairoaks Airport in order to create 1,000 homes on its Green Belt site, has been swift to galvanise support from the 177-member All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs and Lords for general aviation. The APPG, led by MP Grant Shapps, has added its support against the planning application, formally filed by owners the Fairoaks Garden Village in October.
Fairoaks 2020 lodged its own formal objection on 23 November to Surrey Heath, Woking and Runnymede Borough Councils and has stepped up its campaign, canvassing local residents and releasing a new 'keep Fairoaks flying' video.
“We do not believe that such a large development and potential loss of 400 acres of Green Belt landscape, which could result in the closure of this strategically placed airfield to the south west of London, should be made by a local planning committee,” states Fairoaks 2020 chairman Douglas Mancini.
He calls on the UK Government to act on it as a matter of urgency, warning that Fairoaks airport stands poised to become a benchmark for future decisions for general aviation and pilot training in the UK, where some 35-plus aerodromes are under threat.
"There is now only one airport in the London area, London Southend, that is available for use overnight, without any restrictions. In neighbouring Hampshire, Farnborough airport (serving primarily VIP jets) is not interested in general aviation. Its fees do not suit the general aviation sector either. Redhill is under threat. Blackbushe may not get the permission it seeks for its expansion, and Denham is busy with fixed wing and helicopter GA activity."
Denham's general manager Amy Paul adds: “We do not have the capacity to absorb aircraft displaced from Fairoaks, nor could we accept businesses that require hangarage.”
Fairoaks’ runway is also longer than Denham’s and Denham only has grass taxiways. “If someone is assuming that aircraft would relocate from Fairoaks to Denham then they are failing to appreciate the reasons people use aviation," Paul continues. "For example, if someone has to drive an extra 45 minutes to get to a different aerodrome many people will not use that option. Instead they will stop flying. We saw this first hand with the closure of Hatfield airport, and again at Panshanger a few years ago.
"When an aerodrome is closed, a part of the national infrastructure is lost, the network suffers and the whole UK aviation industry suffers."
Fairoaks' organ transplant work is deemed critical in saving lives across the UK. A King Air 200 based there has a high utilisation rate of organ transplant work, which is time critical, regularly requiring operations into the night and early morning. The twin turboprop can fly in and out of Fairoaks in all weather conditions. This is why this aircraft owner is backing Fairoaks 2020.
“Fairoaks Airport is a critical link in the organ transplant chain," he says. "To lose it, with its close proximity to London and the M25 motorway, would mean that organ transplant activities could be impaired, especially considering few other airfields have such capacity and flexibility. Fairoaks is the only airport which offers a hard runway, is available overnight and at weekends. Organ transplants have saved many lives in the recent past, and this would be put at risk by losing the airfield.
"Should Fairoaks be closed for housing the UK would lose a critical component in the GA network, which can never be replaced again. The only beneficiary from the proposed development would be the developer, who would not pay any of the consequential impact costs, which is at the expense of the existing local community and the GA fraternity at large."
Synergy Aviation, an established charter operator and aircraft management company which also runs the Fairoaks’ flying school, is also in firm opposition: “Business aviation movements (which contribute directly to UK PLC’s investment) continue to increase, businesses and employers continue to thrive and employ skilled and talented individuals in a wide range of highly technical roles; the next generation are being trained here too,” says aviation director Dave Edwards.
WingX Advance data shows that there have been 1,700 outbound sectors from Fairoaks since 2016, with an average of 75 IFR-filed flight plans each month. This year’s activity is up by 14 per cent, with a 52 per cent growth year on year in September, and 33 per cent in October. The most frequently operated aircraft at Fairoaks is the Pilatus PC-12, with 61 different PC-12s active.