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Closed petition Reclassify general aviation airfields as greenfield not brownfield sites

Airfields around the country are categorised as brownfield sites making them attractive for development of housing estates.

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However, airfields are often mostly grass land. Reclassifying them as green belt could help protect our green countryside, protect local employment and protect general aviation.

General Aviation airfields are home to wild flowers, plants and grasses as well as many small animals and birds such as Skylarks which are on the red list. Many future commercial pilots start their training at these airfields

We can protect GA airfields from being so vulnerable to closure by designating them as greenfield sites. This could help to achieve the government’s strategy to achieve JetZero and NetZero- as well as help to cement the UK as a world leader in general aviation.

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 May 2024

We are not seeking to alter airfield classification at this current time.

The Government recognises the importance of the General Aviation (GA) industry for supporting key services as well as training and commercial use.

Critical to GA’s success is the network of airfields which reflect the diversity in the sector, differing in size and infrastructure capability, ranging from smaller airfields focused on training and educational opportunities, to larger regional and international business aviation hubs. They all have an important role in supporting the aviation sector.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) emphasises that planning policies should recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of GA airfields and their need to adapt and change over time. The NPPF is a material consideration in planning decisions, and each application is judged on its individual merits. It is for local planning authorities to make individual decisions based on the planning policy and guidance that reflect the local context and engagement with local stakeholders. The weight given to these considerations is a matter for the authority as the decision taker in the first instance.

The NPPF encourages effective use of land in meeting development needs, while safeguarding and improving the environment and ensuring safe and healthy living conditions. The NPPF states this should be in a way that makes as much use as possible of brownfield land.

Brownfield land is defined in the NPPF as “land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure”, with some specific exclusions.

Airfield buildings and their curtilage are currently regarded as brownfield land. However, as the policy above makes clear, it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage of a brownfield site should be developed.

Applications for planning permission to redevelop airfields must be determined in accordance with the development plan for the area unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Applications for the reuse or redevelopment of airfields must also be considered in the context of wider national policy and account should be taken of the Government’s General Aviation Strategy. The NPPF acknowledges the significant contribution aviation makes to economic growth across the country – expecting planning policies, where supported by robust evidence, to identify and protect sites which could be critical in developing infrastructure to widen transport choice.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities