Planning Application No. CB/17/05862/OUT (Cranfield and Marston Moretaine)
- Meeting of DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE, Wednesday, 28 March 2018 10.00 a.m. (Item 153.)
- View the background to item 153.
Address: Land north of Cranfield Airport, College Road (nearest postcode MK43 0AH)
Hybrid planning application relating to: Full planning application relating to proposed Air Park facility (Phase 1) to include 2 no. of aircraft hangars with ancillary atrium and offices; 1 no. of Fixed Base Operator (FBO) Airport Terminal building; 1 no. of ground support building; 1 no. of Class B1 office building; 1 no. of biomass energy centre; 1 no. of security gatehouse; 1 no. of fuel storage area; and associated development to include new roundabout junction, public art installations, runway resurfacing, airport apron, new taxi way link, perimeter fencing, landscaping, car parking and accesses. Outline planning application relating to proposed Air Park facility (Phase 2) to include 3 no. of aircraft hangars; 1 no. of hotel; and associated development to include airport apron, new taxi way link, perimeter fencing, landscaping, car parking (with all matters reserved except for layout and access).
Applicant: Cranfield University and London Cranfield Jet Centre Ltd
The Committee had before it a report regarding Planning Application CB/17/05862/OUT, a hybrid planning application relating to: Full planning application relating to proposed Air Park facility (Phase 1) to include 2 no. of aircraft hangars with ancillary atrium and offices; 1 no. of Fixed Base Operator (FBO) Airport Terminal building; 1 no. of ground support building; 1 no. of Class B1 office building; 1 no. of biomass energy centre; 1 no. of security gatehouse; 1 no. of fuel storage area; and associated development to include new roundabout junction, public art installations, runway resurfacing, airport apron, new taxi-way link, perimeter fencing, landscaping, car parking and accesses. Outline planning application relating to proposed Air Park facility (Phase 2) to include 3 no. of aircraft hangars; 1 no. of hotel; and associated development to include airport apron, new taxi-way link, perimeter fencing, landscaping, car parking (with all matters reserved except for layout and access) on land north of Cranfield Airport, College Road.
In advance of consideration of the application the Committee’s attention was drawn to additional consultation/publicity responses, additional comments and additional/amended conditions as set out in the Late Sheet.
During the planning officer’s introduction a Member sought clarification on the officer’s statement that the scheme was predominantly for private jets. The Member asked if larger sized jets, such as Boeing 737s, were likely to make use of the proposed development. In response the planning officer advised that 737s were already licensed to use Cranfield Airport and facilities existed to allow them to do so. However, given that the business jet use of this aircraft was limited to very wealthy individuals, he believed that 737s would be less frequent visitors than the smaller business jets, such as those produced by the Gulfstream company. The planning officer emphasised that the sound contour model had used the Hawker 800XP jet, which was noisier than a 737, and the model therefore represented a ‘worst case scenario’.
In advance of consideration of this item the Committee received representations from Cranfield Parish Council, objectors to the application and
the applicants under the public participation scheme.
A Member sought clarification from the Parish Council representative regarding the age of the existing buildings at the airport. The Member stated that they appeared to date from the 1950’s and 60’s rather than the Second World War and therefore appeared more significant than a simple grass airstrip used by the Royal Air Force (RAF). In response the Parish Council representative advised that the Airfield had been built in the 1930’s, originally as a RAF training facility, and had been used as such during the war. It had been decommissioned after the war and used for aeronautical research, though also retained for use as an airport and mainly used by private flying schools employing small aircraft. He stressed that that the airport was no longer used by the RAF, one runway had been reduced in length because of the construction of the nearby Nissan facility and its use as an airport had shrunk considerably after the 2008/09 financial crisis. The representative added that the airport’s buildings belonged to Cranfield University.
A Member sought clarification from one of the objectors regarding the location of the latter’s residence following her comment that those persons living under the flight path to the airport had not been consulted. On being advised the objector lived in Salford the Chairman reminded the meeting that the Committee’s site inspection had included this location. Another Member asked for the objector’s residence to be highlighted on the sound contour map to establish the expected levels of noise she would experience.
A Member sought clarification from the applicants’ representative on why a decision on the application was required so quickly. In a response the representative stated that a grant of £17m had been awarded to Cranfield University in June 2017 by the Higher Education Funding Council of England subject to confirmation by 31 March 2018 that the Cranfield Airport project would proceed. He advised that the Funding Council itself would cease to exist on that date.
The Chairman queried why the application had only been submitted in January 2018. He also stated that funding matters were not a material consideration for the Committee. In response the representative explained that work on the application had started in June 2017, once the funding offer had been made, and it had taken until the end of 2017 for the plans to be developed and public consultation to have taken place. The application had then been submitted.
A Member sought clarification regarding the type and timing of flights. The representative explained that whilst some visitors would remain on site the majority would travel on to London, Birmingham and Milton Keynes. It was envisaged that 40% of the flights would take place at the beginning and end of the working day.
The Vice-Chairman sought clarification on the current consultation process between the airport and local residents. The representative advised that meetings had taken place with the Parish Council with regard to the application. In addition, regular meetings took place with the Parish Council on other matters relating to the airport. The Vice-Chairman asked if, as the airport was moving to become a commercial entity, it would form a consultative committee in order to meet possible Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requirements in this regard. The representative was unable to provide a full answer but stated that a consultative committee would be formed, wider ranging than before in scope, and it would meet any CAA requirements. The Vice-Chairman requested that officers to confirm whether a consultative committee was a CAA requirement.
In order to provide clarification to the Committee a representative stated that, as part of the Environmental Assessment, a baseline study had been undertaken and noise monitors installed around the airfield. He referred to the types of business jet that already regularly used the airport and pointed out that, given there was only one runway, the aircraft could only take off or land one at a time so the noise levels currently experienced would be replicated in the future. It was, therefore, possible to be in Cranfield and hear an aircraft of the size and type that would be using the proposed Air Park in the future.
In response to a Member’s query the representative confirmed that although 150k movements were already permitted at the airport only 20k took place at present. He explained that the baseline had been set at 20k and if the increase did suddenly expand to 150k movements the noise levels would increase substantially. However, and in response to another Member’s query, he made clear that it was not planned to increase movements to that level. The existing mixed aircraft movements were at 20k and the proposed business jet movements linked to the Air Park added a further 25k giving a total of 45k movements.
The Member then sought clarification on how the modelled sound levels had been arrived at. The representative explained that the model worked by deciding on a mix of aircraft, taking one from each of the different types, so it included noisier and quieter aircraft. The mix was based on a ‘best guess’ as it was not known exactly what aircraft would use the airport. Each aircraft produced a different noise signature so small, medium and large jets were included. He advised that the noisiest jet used was noisier than a 737 and would not be currently certified, although existing ones could continue to fly. The representative explained that each aircraft was subject to stringent guidelines on noise. The guidelines were becoming increasingly stringent and it was for this reason that he believed aviation noise would reduce over time.
The Member queried what noise a 737 would make in the context of the sound contour diagram if the noisiest jet engine lay within 63dB and a 737 was quieter. The representative stated that the 737 was quieter and would not alter the size of the contours in the diagram. He explained that the noise level would depend on the runway used and wind direction. Another representative emphasised that the number of 737s flown as business jets was very small.
A Member sought clarification on what mix of jet and propeller driven aircraft movements currently took place and how would this change under the proposal. The representative explained that, at present, there were 1k business jet movements a year and 19k propeller driven aircraft movements. However, in future there would be parity between the two types. He added that some propeller driven aircraft were noisier than business jets.
The Member then sought clarification from the applicants’ representative on the availability of a breakdown of the mix of aircraft used. The representative referred Members to an appendix which listed the aircraft modelled. The representative stated that the applicants were happy to condition the extent of the noise contours as a part of the application so, if the aircraft mix were to change, there was a commitment not to make them worse.
A Member sought clarification as to whether it was expected that noise levels would reduce over time as older jets were withdrawn from service and quieter aircraft replaced them. He also queried over what time period it was anticipated that the business jet movements would increase to the projected 25k a year. In response the representative stated that jets had a limited operational life compared to propeller driven aircraft. In addition the jets’ owners would also want to use the latest model. The number of movements was linked to the proposed development phases. Once Phase 1 had been completed the growth to 14½ k annual business jet movements would begin. If successful, and once phase 2 had been completed, growth would continue to a total of 25k business jet movements. He added that by conditioning the noise contours the noise levels could not worsen and noisier aircraft could not, therefore, be flown. The representative stated that it was not possible to know what mix of aircraft would be used. Phase 1 of the airport would be built by 2020 and the numbers would start to increase from that point with the full capacity of business jet and propeller driven aircraft reaching a total of 45k movements under phase 2, by 2027.
The Chairman sought clarification as to why an explanation of the Noise Management Plan (NMP) was not being provided until after the application was, possibly, approved. He queried why the applicant felt it necessary to wait until after the approval and why there was no Plan or related information available. In response the representative stated that the terms of the NMP were set out within the proposed conditions and a NMP would be drafted in advance with the operators. However, details were not yet available because a first years’ worth of real world data was required to understand how the noise contours were performing together with the operators’ procedures and how they needed to be managed. He acknowledged that it was a monitoring exercise but emphasised that it was also about adjusting the operation of the Air Park to ensure it was complying with approved targets.
A Member sought further clarification on the NMP because, as a key condition, it would not be in effect until after a full year of operation. In response the representative likened the NMP to a construction management plan in that it was conditioned because it had to be written by a contractor who often had not been appointed at that stage. The applicant would need to submit an NMP before the operation of the Air Park but for it to be a document of value the applicant needed to work with operators in order to understand the detail of their operations. The Plan would be constantly referred to in order to ensure the operators’ activities were within acceptable limits.
A Member commented that the NMP would assist the applicant to comply within the recommended conditions and that appropriate action would be taken by the environmental health officer if they failed to do so.
The planning officer responded to the points raised as follows:
· The sound contour diagram provided a realistic depiction of the noise levels that would be generated by the aircraft that could operate from the Air Park. There were four properties within the 63 dB level (significant adverse impact level) and this figure remained unchanged for Phase 2 of the development.
· There were conditions in the Late Sheet applicable to Phase 2 which ensured that no matter what aircraft were operated the decibel levels would not exceed the maximum levels set out within the Environmental Statement. These levels represented ‘the worst case scenario’.
· The proposed hangars could accommodate the 737. He advised that the presence of these aircraft would be infrequent but they were already licensed to operate from the airport and had done so.
· There would be no extension of the runway. Any proposed extension would require its own individual planning permission.
· A proposed condition would prevent bulk freight services and scheduled holiday charter airliner services from using the airport. A request to do so would require planning permission.
· Consultation had been carried out with all bodies, it had been advertised in the press and through site notices and there had been engagement in terms of pre-application. Although the application had only recently been submitted the Council had been aware of it for a considerable time as well as the related issues that could arise.
· There would be no significant impact on the nearby village of Salford which lay within the 57 dB contour and was adjacent to the M1.
· The internal teaching environment in local schools would be acceptable. There was one school within the 57 dB contour and this was well below the 63 dB significant impact level.
· The highways officer had considered the proposed off-site highways works and it was felt that there would be no detrimental impact on the highways infrastructure.
· The planning officer reiterated that whilst the NMP was a condition for monitoring it would need to be agreed prior to any operation of the new facility. The information would, therefore, be available before the commencement of the permitted application. He stressed, however, that he did not feel the application was only acceptable because of the NMP condition as he believed the application to be acceptable in its own right, having regard to the overall planning balance. The NMP would also foster community engagement and ensure a suitable committee was formed to monitor the ongoing operation of the airport. This would ensure any future guidance was picked up, consideration given to the submission and approval of mitigation schemes and ensure that the airport was operating at an acceptable level.
· The Chairman referred to comment that there was no intention to extend the runway but stated that the master plan provided for an extension of 300m. In response the planning officer explained that the Phase 2 Master Plan only proposed the resurfacing of the existing runway and there was no proposed expansion of the runway. This could be the subject of a future application at which point it would be considered on its own merits. The Chairman acknowledged that it was not a part of the application before Members but the overall master plan included this provision and it had created concern locally.
· The Chairman referred to concerns expressed by one of the objectors in connection with the parameters suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding health for school children. Reference had been made to a 50 dB limit for internal noise levels and 55 dB limit for external noise levels. In response the planning officer stated that, for gardens, the recommended guidance was 55 dB and the Planning Inspector had, for the proposed residential development west of Mill Lane, Cranfield (known as Area B) accepted that there would be an impact on gardens at this level. He had found that application (including the harm to gardens) acceptable in the overall planning balance and this was what he (the planning officer) had also concluded with regard to the airport application.
· With reference to the teaching environment the environmental health officer referred to the guidance on internal noise levels in schools. He pointed out that the structure of the school would mitigate the sound level to a degree and an examination of Building Bulletin 93 (the government guidance dealing with the acoustic standards of school buildings) indicated that the sound levels would be satisfactory.
· The Chairman referred to a comment by one of the objectors that there had been no proper transport impact assessment. The planning officer stated that a comprehensive assessment had been submitted and the mitigation set out in the officer report was based on that robust assessment. The highways officer fully concurred. The assessment had identified the need for some off-site mitigation measures where capacity was an issue including the Salford Road/Wavendon Road junction which, she understood, would be dealt with as part of the Phase 2 application.
· The Chairman referred to concerns expressed by the Parish Council representative that there had been no independent assessment of the noise impact of the application. In response the planning officer stated that, as a member of the Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, he had to be assured that, in order to make a recommendation, it was based on the evidence and that he understood the issues involved. Further, and whilst the Council had not made use of an independent noise expert, it had been able to make use of the environmental health officer’s wide ranging experience in noise issues, including aviation, and the latter regarded the application as acceptable. Further, the NMP contained a commitment to bring in an aviation expert to ensure that there was compliance with guidance and mitigate any unacceptable levels of noise if there were any. The planning officer reiterated that the application would not have been presented to Members if he was not confident in his recommendation.
· The Chairman referred to a proposal in the Late Sheet to remove the words ‘up to’ from the descriptive text in the planning officer’s report in relation to the possible height of the hotel building so that the text would read ‘could be five storeys in height’. The planning officer responded that the amendment was an attempt at clarity and was not binding as the Committee was only being asked at this point to consider the position of the hotel as part of the Phase 2 outline application. Removing the words ‘up to’ would enable the Committee to consider any scale under the reserved matter application and an unacceptable size would not be supported by Members. The Chairman stated, however, that as only the position was being considered, there was no need to refer to the height at all and he suggested the text read ‘a four or five star hotel with conferencing facilities’. The planning officer accepted that this was what he had intended.
A ward Member sought clarification from the officers on the following points:
· The perimeter fencing material was referred to as solid in the officer’s report but other documents referred to wire mesh. The planning officer explained that, given the nature of the airport and safety guidance, it would be robust fencing with the details to be agreed through condition. The proposed fencing would be assessed and softened in appearance through landscaping. He stated that it would have to be of a certain nature for security purposes. The ward Member asked if the fencing material was still to be conditioned and the planning officer responded that the material used would be robust metal but the exact details would be controlled by condition. He understood, however, that it would be wire mesh fencing. He stressed that the fencing material used would have to be appropriate and confirmed it would be conditioned as part of the landscaping plan.
· Whilst the Parish Council had remarked on how the proposed buildings could fit better in the countryside its objection had been on the grounds of landscaping and visual impact and the reasons were set out in the Parish Council’s submission. The ward Member felt that this was not clear in the officer’s report. The planning officer stated that he felt he had summarised the Parish Council’s position comments in his report, had stated that the Parish Council objected and had also attached its letter as an appendix to his report.
The ward Member referred to Policy DM11 which stated that management plans, development briefs or master plans agreed by the Council were required prior to the significant expansion or redevelopment of the facilities at Cranfield University or the Technology Park. The officer report stated that the master plan for the airport development would be approved by way of approving the planning application. The ward Member added that the master plan that had been consulted on by the University (as the applicants) had not been made available to the Committee’s Members. Of importance was that the master plan showed a 300m extension to the runway to the north of the airport and the University had made this aim clear in its documentation. If the Committee was approving the master plan by approving the application it was, therefore, also approving the runway extension.
The ward Member then turned to highways issues and indicated her support for the proposed works under Phase 1 of the development. With regard to the works proposed under Phase 2, however, she stated that both she and the Parish Council felt that the detail of the proposed improvements should not be approved as part of the current application. Whilst the need for improvements was recognised the suggestion that mini roundabouts would solve the traffic issues in Salford at the bottom of Cranfield Hill and where Beancroft Road met Marston Hill was mistaken. She requested that, instead, a condition be added requiring the detail of the proposed schemes to come forward as part of the Phase 2 reserved matters application. She felt that this would have the benefit of considering the required works at a time when there was a better understanding of how traffic movements had changed and therefore make use of up to date information.
The ward Member next referred to the landscape and visual impact of the application and that the Committee had seen, during its site inspection, where the hangars and support buildings were to be sited. She felt that it could not be argued that there would not be a serious change in the local landscape and its open character.
The ward Member then turned to the question of noise which she felt was the most important issue. Although difficult for her to explain, she asked that Members follow her comments because of the likely impact on Cranfield and the surrounding villages. She first stated that it was not the case that the existing permission for 150k movements meant that the airport could do as it wished. She explained that she, the Parish Council and most of the residents of Cranfield, had accepted the statement made by Turnberry at the public exhibitions and at the Parish Council that the airport could do so. However, examination of the Biggin Hill Airport website revealed the range of measures, controls, restrictions and mitigation in place for an airfield which already operated flying schools and business jets. This suggested that a more up to date management scheme could be put in place at Cranfield. Arising from this the Parish Council had sought independent advice on noise from James Trow (Noise Consultants Ltd) a consultant who had worked on airport projects for the last 12 years at 15 international and regional airports. He was the World Bank aviation noise expert and a noise expert for the EU Commission. The ward Member advised that Mr Trow had been unable to attend the meeting due to a prior commitment. She also informed the Committee that a report had been produced by Noise Consultants Ltd and it had been rebutted by Turnberry. Noise Consultants Ltd had then produced a second report in response to Turnberry’s rebuttal. Copies of both documents had been provided to Members by the Parish Council.
The ward Member stated that the application would increase airport noise levels and that this was accepted by all parties. It would alter the mix of aircraft types away from small propeller driven aircraft and towards business jets up to the size of Boeing 737s. This had been confirmed by the applicants’ representatives and the planning officer. It was intended that the number of movements would increase from 20k, from a mix of propeller driven aircraft (19k) and business jets (1k), to a new total of 40k movements with a parity between the two types. Turnberry had confirmed that without the Air Park development the current mix of aircraft types would continue or be slightly lower. The ward Member then stated that it was the application for the ground infrastructure improvements which was the enabler by which the additional movements could take place and allow the change in aircraft types which would use the airport. It was, therefore, incorrect to say that the airport could do as it wished under its current operational licence as it was actually constrained from doing so by its existing ground infrastructure. The noise generated would depend on the types of aircraft using the airport and the types of aircraft would, in turn, depend on what the infrastructure could facilitate. The noise could, therefore, be conditioned and controlled.
The ward Member stated that as the noise would increase with the new infrastructure the Committee needed to consider what was an acceptable level of noise impact and what would happen if that level was exceeded. She asked if enough work been done to establish how much more noise there would be and whether the Committee was satisfied that it would be sufficiently mitigated. The ward Member stated that the noise assessment from Turnberry had many omissions. It did not, for example, consider what would happen if the airport operated at night. Though the airport did not currently do so the applicant had made clear that it had a 24 hour operating licence. She added that a range of scenarios including, say, the requirement to operate more night movements than had been envisaged, had not been considered and so could not, currently, be conditioned.
The ward Member stated that the Turnberry report had not considered the measures the airport could put in place to mitigate and minimise the noise increase, as was required by government policy. The effect on the local schools had not been considered though children had been identified by the government as noise sensitive receptors, as were hospitals, and this issue had to be considered in its own right. Aircraft noise could have an effect on children’s learning and this had not been addressed in the Environmental Statement. The Turnberry report stated that the schools were shown on the contour maps but she had been unable to find them on any of the maps presented in the Environmental Statement. The ward Member, therefore, felt it was incorrect to say that a noise impact assessment of the schools had been carried out and she did not consider this to be safe.
The ward Member next stated that there was no noise insulation scheme and there were no proposals on how this would be created. She stated that good practice indicated that it should be a separate condition.
The ward Member stated that the application had not used the most up to date guidance and policies to make the noise assessment. The potential effects of the noise had therefore not been fully described or presented. This matter had been a constant point of dispute and Noise Consultants Ltd had attempted to clarify this at a number of points through the provision of additional information in the form of extracts and a document entitled ‘The House of Commons Transport Committee Airports National Policy Statement’ which stated that the most to date guidance should be used. However, the 2013 guidance, rather than that dated October 2017, had been used. Further, it was incorrect to state that it only applied to air space change as it applied to all noise assessments. Because Noise Consultants Ltd and Turnberry completely disagreed on that point, and given that it was such a fundamental issue, the ward Member felt that the Council should have appointed its own noise expert in order to resolve the differences.
The ward Member stated that the application had not considered the effect of the noise impact on human health which she felt was a key consideration. The noise modelling had not broken down the aircraft movements by type, or by day or night. She stated that no helicopter movements had been included which was important because both the Farnborough Airport and Biggin Hill Airport websites emphasised their close travel proximity to London by helicopter. The ward Member stated that some Cranfield Air Park users would want to travel by helicopter to London so an increase in helicopter movements could be anticipated. However, this had not been modelled.
The ward Member next referred to the indication that the 63 dB contour was the only contour of importance and, as a result, just four properties in Cranfield would experience significant adverse noise harm. She stated, however, that besides those four properties the dwellings in Area C (the consented Mill Road site), Area B (the recently approved Mill Road phase 2 site) and possibly others in Areas E and A, which were currently at appeal, could also be adversely effected. At 63 dB insulation had to be paid for but she queried if Turnberry and the Council’s officers were indicating that other residents experiencing noise below that level did not deserve to have the noise mitigated. The noise guidance used meant it was possible for the applicants to do whatever they wished up to 63 dB and only then introduce mitigation. She pointed out that the 2013 guidance stated that the onset of significant community annoyance was 57 dB and that would affect 715 homes in Cranfield. A more recent guidance lowered the figure to 54 dB but that contour had not been measured so it was not possible to know how many homes in Cranfield would be affected. The most recent guidance had lowered the figure to 51 dB and there was no indication where the dwellings affected were, whether the noise levels in those areas could be mitigated or what restrictions could be put in place that would be reasonable to condition for the future.
The ward Member stated that the approach by the Council had been to address the increase in noise through conditions. However, the conditions could only address the information provided in the Environmental Statement and not to any unforeseen circumstances that might arise. Therefore, the conditions as written could not cover the issues that could occur and residents were not properly protected. She commented that recommended condition 24 relating to the NMP would mean a year would pass before anything was structured and the planning officer had stated that the first year was about monitoring and not mitigation. The ward Member added that the recommended conditions as proposed contained no restrictions on any activity at the airport, though she acknowledged that those contained in the Late Sheet went some way towards starting the introduction of restrictions. However, she felt that they were insufficient and did not override the fundamental concerns. As such the conditions did not provide safeguards that would avoid the development exceeding the noise levels shown in the Environmental Statement and the Environmental Statement itself could be found wanting.
The ward Member asked why, if a noise expert was to be brought in for the NMP, he or she had not been brought in to consider the application from the beginning. She stated that the NMP would only monitor the situation, it did not introduce any restrictions. As a result the Air Park would be free to do as it wished with no consequences.
A number of recommendations were made by Noise Consultants Ltd on pages 11 and 12 of the rebuttal of the Turnberry document and the ward Member asked for all of them to be included in the conditions. She stated that the Council should have sought independent aviation noise expertise because the planning officers and environmental health officers were experts in their own field, not in aviation noise. This mattered as proper advise would have enabled Members to understand if the impact of the development was significant and how the application should be properly conditioned in a watertight manner. She stressed that it was the Council’s responsibility to protect its residents but the noise report the Council was relying on was non-compliant with current policy and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. She asked if Members would wish to consent a non-compliant scheme and if Members were sure residents would be properly protected given that the noise conditions, as proposed, were not adequate enough. The ward Member referred to concerns raised by both the Parish Council and the Noise Consultants Ltd report and she was of the opinion that these had not been properly addressed. Instead, there was a reliance on conditions that were not fit for purpose and the scheme, whilst it provided great flexibility to the airport, provided little certainty for the residents. She stressed that it was important that the effects were fully understood before consent was given. If this was not done then the Council would be unable to assure residents that the noise increases would not be worse than were envisaged.
The ward Member felt the Council had not struck the right balance between the needs of the airport and the local residents.
The ward Member stated that applicants’ representative had made it clear that there was great pressure to have the application approved in order for the University to access funding. Whilst understanding the University’s rationale to have a more commercially based airport operation she commented that the application needed to be properly assessed and conditioned. However, the Committee had been asked to approve it because of the time pressure on funding rather than making sure that the best interests of the residents were looked after and they were protected. She reiterated that the Committee had to be sure, if it wished to approve the application, that it had no doubts that the information it had was sufficient to enable residents to be properly protected.
(Note: At this point in the proceedings Councillor Mrs Clark left the Chamber. She took no further part in the debate or in the decision on this item).
The Chairman stated that, as the Committee was aware, he was also a ward Member for Cranfield and Marston Moretaine. The third ward Member had been unable to attend due to work commitments. The Chairman reminded the meeting that he had habitually taken a neutral stance even when applications had come forward for his ward as he believed his role was to ensure all participants had the opportunity to present their case. However, with regard to the application before Members, he admitted to being conflicted not just as a ward Member but also as Chairman. He had not heard answers to his satisfaction on the doubts which had been raised. The Chairman then referred to a legal report, circulated to Members the day before, which had been commissioned by the Parish Council and which, he felt, cast further doubt in his mind as to whether it would be safe to proceed and determine the application at that meeting. He felt there was a case for further information to be made available at a future date. On that basis he moved deferment for one cycle. He then undertook to explain the reasons why he had come to that view and raised the first ward Member’s earlier reference to Policy DM11. The Chairman stated that the application did equate to a redevelopment of facilities which would enable the expansion and he felt the master plan should have been circulated. He then referred to the legal opinion commissioned by the Parish Council and how he was struck by the doubt expressed as to whether or not it was safe to proceed. Further, the legal report stated that the Committee would be acting unlawfully if it failed to ask for further information in compliance with Regulation 25 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.
The Chairman stated that although he was Chairman he was also acting as ward Member. It was normal that the Committee would hear the ward Member and then ask the officers to respond and so, as ward Member, he was making his comments. However, debate ensued at this point with regard to the Chairman’s authority and status, given that he also wished to take part as a ward Member. Members felt that the meeting should be adjourned in order to clarify this issue.
(Note: The Committee adjourned at 12.16 p.m. and reconvened at 12.25 p.m.)
The Chairman informed Members that he had been advised that he had been in danger of overstepping his authority and thereby, possibly, jeopardise the outcome of the Committee’s deliberations. He had also been advised to relinquish the Chair, hand over to the Vice-Chairman and leave the Chamber. He apologised if it had been felt that he had acted inappropriately but his prime concern had been to represent the residents of Cranfield.
(Note: At this point in the proceedings the Chairman, Councillor Matthews, left the Chamber. He took no further part in the debate or in the decision on this item).
COUNCILLOR BERRY IN THE CHAIR
The planning officer responded to the points raised by the ward Member and by the Chairman (as ward Member) as follows:
· The Master Plans to be considered under the proposal were before Members. There was no expansion of the runway proposed and no element of the assessment considered it. Turnberry had been open in public consultation in that it was something that might be done in the future. The planning officer stressed that any future proposal for such an extension would be subject to its own assessment and consideration of this matter was irrelevant at the current time.
· With regard to the ward Member’s reference to mitigation and human health these were covered within the Environmental Statement.
· The Council was confident that the Environmental Statement was robust, the methodology for assessment was robust and therefore there was no deficiency in the Statement.
· The Parish Council’s noise assessor dealt with far larger airport facilities than that proposed for Cranfield. The assessor would be looking at possible changes to aviation movements, such as stacking (where aircraft circled an airport in holding stacks until a landing slot became available), but the planning application for Cranfield would not see any change to the existing use of the airspace - one aircraft would take off and one would land as currently took place.
· The 2017 Guidance did not change the 63 dB level, it simply took the assessment down to start at 51 dB. Although the outside contour for 57 dB would, therefore, broaden out and capture more properties the noise levels would be considered acceptable in terms of insulation mitigation.
· The noise impact on gardens had been considered and it was acknowledged that there would be a sound levels above 55 dB. The planning officer referred to the Planning Inspector’s recognition that, within a certain distance of the airport runway, there would be a noise impact on the new Area B (Mill Road phase 2 site) residential development. However, the Inspector had considered the noise levels acceptable within the overall planning balance and that the housing benefit outweighed the harm. The planning officer stated that whilst it was considered that there would be an intermittent and infrequent impact to gardens by the airport development it had been weighed against the benefits of the scheme.
· The planning officer stressed that the critical point was that the 2017 Guidance had not been engaged given the nature of the proposal. Even if it had been, it would have made no difference to the overall balancing exercise conducted by the officers and the application would still be considered acceptable. He added that the Guidance did not adjust the significant adverse impact level and merely drew down the contour levels.
· The Chairman had referred to the legal opinion contained within the paper commissioned by the Parish Council. The planning officer stated that queries had been raised on such issues as ground noise in that paper. In response he referred to contours which, he stated, represented the worst case scenario for the noise of an engine when taking off and stated that this would be far worse than any ground noise which would be picked up in the NMP. He explained that the NMP was not merely for monitoring, which was a part of it, it was also about community engagement and mitigation which would need to be carried out given the standing of the government guidance above that of the Council’s own conditions. He added that the buffers were considered acceptable.
The Committee considered the application and in summary discussed the following:
· A Member stated that he understood that junction 11a of the M1 generated noise levels of 65 – 68 dB. This was approximately 20 times the noise level generated at 58 dB. He then referred to his earlier reference to the 150k movements as being the baseline and the subsequent argument that was unacceptable. He commented that the Development Management Committee often discussed the use of existing industrial estates that were no longer viable and had, in effect, ceased to function. The Committee felt that if such a site were to restart and thrive then a certain number of lorry movements, at certain times and with accompanying noise levels, could be expected. When an application for a residential development on a former industrial estate was submitted the Committee, therefore, the baseline for movements was set at the estate’s most active period, not when it was derelict. He stated that he would adopt the same approach, in theory, to the current application and that when sound levels were being evaluated reference should be made to 150k movements and not to the projected 20k movements. The Member also felt that a fall in movements to 20k should be regarded as a source of disappointment to the Committee given that the airport and Cranfield University represented a key part of the Council’s industrial strategy. He spoke of the role of these sites in improving the economy within Central Bedfordshire, the generation of industry and trade and the likely location of higher paid jobs. The Member stated that, in his opinion, the airport had been more than just a wartime soft airstrip and the Council should be encouraging its development. He also welcomed the proposed £17m grant to the University, which represented investment within Central Bedfordshire, and which he stated was necessary if the large number of proposed new homes were to be built within his ward. He concluded by stating that the only arguments raised against the application were the same ones used against all major applications. He understood the desire of local residents everywhere to reduce any level of development to the minimum but the Committee had to take a dispassionate view in the interests of the Council as a whole. Unless corrected by the Executive Member for Regeneration, he understood that the area represented a key part of the Council’s industrial strategy and should not be otherwise prejudiced.
· A Member of the Committee, who was also the Executive Member for Regeneration, confirmed the airport’s status as being crucial in the Council’s economic strategy but stated that he would comment in relation to that in planning terms rather than as a Regeneration issue. The Member referred to the £17m grant and drew Members’ attention to the further linked £40m investment by Cranfield Air Park which represented a significantly larger investment than that supported by government funding.
· The Member referred the Committee to page 32 of the officer report and to the relevant Council policies and extracts from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which related to supporting sustainable economic growth. He then referred to the current contribution to the local economy made by Cranfield University, its status as a major employer and to the projected number of jobs (an estimated gross total of 230-270 FTEs) arising from Phase 1 of the development once it was fully operational.
· The Member referred to the University supporting very highly skilled jobs and how these could also be found at the nearby Nissan Technical Centre. He commented that the proposed hotel development under Phase 2 would, usefully, provide less skilled jobs than could be found at the University.
· Turning to page 33 of the report the Member drew Members’ attention to the information relating to the local employment supported by the development, which was estimated to be 3-4% of the total employees in the Cranfield and Marston Moretaine ward, once Phase 1 was fully operational and how that figure would grow further once Phase 2 was also operational.
· The Member went on to refer to the estimated 51k visitors to the Air Park once Phase 1 was operational and how that would lead to increased expenditure locally. He emphasised that the economic benefits of the development and the related job creation were essential to that part of Central Bedfordshire. The Member reminded the meeting that, in the north of Central Bedfordshire, there was a focus on scientific, technical and related job types. The application would transform the ongoing viability of the airport and support its use for aerospace research and development.
· The Member then referred to the NMP and indicated his approval of it. He stressed that the NMP was imposed by a condition which required the applicant to submit the Plan for the Council’s approval prior to the commencement of any operations. He believed the NMP content, which he felt to be fairly comprehensive, provided answers to the points raised by the ward Member and local residents.
· The Member added that should the Committee approve the application he would wish to see a recommendation requiring the officers to consult with an independent noise expert in relation to the discharge of the condition on the NMP.
· Turning to page 28 of the officer report the Member referred to the proposed Phase 2 mitigation measures set out in paragraph 4.5. The Member concurred with the ward Member’s view that these measures were not satisfactory and suggested that they be deleted and replaced by a requirement for the submission of a highways scheme to the local authority for approval within the Phase 2 reserved matters application. He acknowledged that this matter did not form part of the recommended conditions currently before the Committee but wished to make clear that he was unable to support the introduction of a compact roundabout at Salford and he would want the opportunity to give further consideration to it at a later date.
· The Member then moved the application subject to the inclusion of a recommendation on the need to consult an independent noise expert. The motion was seconded.
· A Member expressed concern on the very strong focus on noise and, although the ward Member had touched on openness and traffic concerns, they had hardly been discussed. He referred to the suggested deletion of the proposed Phase 2 mitigation and indicated his support. With regard to the NMP the Member felt that it should be made explicit in the relevant condition that, included within the Plan, were details of how members of the public could submit complaints. He stated that the Committee should be satisfied that it was very easy for a complaint to be submitted and referred to his own personal knowledge of this area given part of his own ward experienced aircraft noise. He commented that an easy complaints process would also assist the airport to deal with any issues. A planning officer confirmed that this could be included within the condition.
· A Member stated that he appreciated why another Member had thought that the baseline for movements should be 150k. However, he did not accept the point that it meant Cranfield could do whatever it wished and he stated that the applicants were not asking to do so. He also commented that the situation between an airport used largely by flying schools with small propeller driven aircraft frequently landing and taking off and a much reduced number of aircraft flying further distances would be totally different. He added that, in order to gain a greater understanding, he had acquainted himself with noise levels and, from this, advised that he understood 63 dB was slightly louder than a conversation.
· A Member informed the meeting that 63 dB was the equivalent to heavy traffic at 100m on a motorway and noise in the 50 dB range was equivalent to the sound of a dishwasher in a neighbouring room. He stated that he fully appreciated the concerns expressed and had used a noise chart to put them in to context.
· A Member referred to the comparative contour map for London-Luton Airport and pointed out that the 57 dB contour covered almost all the homes in Slip End (within his ward of Caddington) and the 60 dB contour covered about 25% of the homes. The noise level for Slip End Lower School was approximately 59 dB. The residents were aware of the airport but only a relatively few, who lived directly under the flightpath, regarded the noise as particularly intrusive. The Member then referred to the letter received the previous day from the Parish Council with the solicitor’s suggestion that Central Bedfordshire Council was at risk of judicial review because it had not been given all the information it should have before making a decision. He stated that as Central Bedfordshire Council’s legal officer present at the meeting had not intervened to prevent the Committee from continuing he assumed that she had no concerns that this suggestion was true. In response the legal officer stated that she had not seen the Parish Council’s letter. However, in terms of what had been discussed by the Committee that day, the responses from the officer, and how the Committee intended to deal with issues by way of condition, she believed the Committee had covered all that it needed to.
· A Member commented that he had not received the letter. The Chairman explained that it had been sent by email late the previous day.
· The legal officer stated that, provided the officer was satisfied that he had dealt with all the points, and she was not aware of any issue raised that needed to be further examined from a legal perspective, she was satisfied that the officer had dealt with everything that he needed to.
· With regard to the 150k movements the Chairman stated that this equated to 75k cycles, which equated to approximately 15 aircraft an hour for the working day, 365 days a year. Based on his expertise as a Squadron Leader in the RAF, during which he was a movement’s officer, he did not think that Cranfield had the space to park that number of aircraft. The size of Cranfield Airport meant it did not have the capacity to deal with a volume of 15 aircraft an hour and he did not, therefore, believe that this would present a problem in the longer term.
On being put to the vote the application was unanimously approved.
that Planning Application No. CB/17/05862/OUT relating to land north of Cranfield Airport, College Road (nearest post code MK43 0AH) be approved as set out in the Schedule attached to these minutes.
- 06 17.05862 Map, item 153. PDF 466 KB
- 06 17.05862 Report, item 153. PDF 329 KB
- 06 Appendix A - Redacted Hulcote and Salford PC, item 153. PDF 107 KB
- 06 Appendix B - North Crawley PC, item 153. PDF 100 KB
- 06 Appendix C -Cranfield PC, item 153. PDF 381 KB
- 06 Appendix D - Moulsoe PC, item 153. PDF 376 KB
- 06 Appendix E - Turnberry Response to Cranfield PC, item 153. PDF 198 KB
- 06 Appendix F - SRL.Turnberry Response to Noise Consultants Ltd, item 153. PDF 291 KB
- 06 17.05862 Schedule Final, item 153. PDF 149 KB