Balancing the needs of aviation and the housing sectors
The UK’s general aviation sector provides some £3.0 bn GVA (Gross Added Value) to the economy – but with increasing pressure on local authorities to find suitable sites to meet the Government’s housing targets, many smaller general aviation are under threat of closure. Currently, all airfields are regarded as brownfield sites, which have priority status for development, although the existing policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is currently under review by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in conjunction with the Department for Transport.
Most general aviation airfield can break even through a range of aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue streams, although funding for new infrastructure is often prohibitive. With its land value as housing considerably in excess of that as an ongoing airfield, it is not surprising the many privately-owned airfields are under threat. General aviation has at best been static in the UK over the past 10 years, although there are some growth areas including flight experience flights, microlights and home-built aircraft. Larger airfields with the appropriate facilities attract the more profitable corporate aircraft, dependent on their location in relation to major conurbations. There is however considerable competition to attract corporate aviation, although peak time slots at many larger airports are scarce and expensive. As such, many smaller airfields must rely on flight training and privately-owned based aircraft to survive, coupled with any additional revenue from hangarage, the cafe and from any small businesses based on the site. In addition, many small airfields support the local community through a variety of activities ranging from Sunday markets through to acting as a base for the helicopter emergency services (HEMS).
Redhill Airport in Surrey faces an uncertain future