Local campaign against ‘aerospace business park’ on farmland next to Cardiff Airport

In Wales, UK, plans for an ‘aerospace business park’ on farmland next to Cardiff Airport are facing strong oppostion from locals. The land targetted for the development encompasses Model Farm, upon which the Jenkins family, having held the tenancy for three generations, since 1935, rear beef cattle and grow cereals and wildflower seeds that are sold throughout Wales. They were shocked when they were served with an eviction notice by the landowner: Legal & General, a financial services and asset management company. Within a short space of time a group aiming to save Model Farm, Vale Communities Unite, gained thousands of supporters and raised funds for legal fees to appeal the decision to grant permission decision. A protest was held outside the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) on 21st August 2021.

  • Protest outside Senedd (Welsh Parliament) to save Model Farm from demolition and support family facing eviction. Photo: THE NATIONAL, 22/08/2021
  • Map of layout of proposed aerospace business park. Graphic: Vale of Glamorgan Council, Planning Committee: 14 July 2021
  • Since 1935 four generations of the Jenkins family have worked on Model Farm. Photo: ITV NEWS, 23/08/2021

Gethin Jenkins said “We have been heartened by the local support we have had – people are aghast at the scale of what is planned.” Previously, he had told the Planning Committee: “Anything that will be built here, could also be built on a brownfield site within a three-mile radius. If you allow this development, you will not only be taking away my family’s farming future and my son’s home, you will be denying all future generations their right to see a vibrant countryside on their doorstep. One it’s built on, it’s gone forever.”

His son Rhys explained that his father had worked hard to create a productive farm, establishing a water supply including pipes and tanks in every field so that livestock could be kept in them. Improving soil condition was a long-term and complex project that had taken 60 years. Worried about the effects on his father and his future on the farm he said “I’ve grown up and thought I would farm, it’s all I wanted to do. It’s a kick in the teeth seeing my dad get upset. He’s worked his whole life, as has his father, to make the farm a success.”

Vale of Glamorgan Council Planning Committee had granted planning permission for the business park Despite more than 1,000 public objections. The prevalent reasons for objections were summarised as:

• Traffic congestion and lack of provision for new transport infrastructure

• Loss of farmland/ opposition to eviction of tenant farmer

• Detriment to local heritage assets

• Detriment to residents’ wellbeing and amenity

• Lack of need and justification the development, in this location

• Detrimental visual and landscape impact/ loss of open countryside

• Opposition to proposed Porthkerry Country Park extension

• Not sustainable/ will greatly contribute to climate change

• Nature/ habitat loss, detriment to ecology and biodiversity

• Loss of trees/ impact to ancient woodlands

• Local drainage infrastructure inadequate to accommodate development

• Flooding and contamination

• Opposition to illustrated Rapid Transit Corridor

• Procedural matters

The proposed business park site forms part of the Cardiff Airport-St. Athan Enterprise Zone, which the Local Development Plan states will provide a mixed use “airport city” development. In September 2021 the business park plan was stalled; Vale of Glamorgan Council quashed planning permission, accepting that Viability Information had not been included as it should have been within the Officers’ Report. The planning permission decision will be subject to a judicial review and considered in court before the matter goes back to the planning committee for another decision. Councillor Andrew RT Davies welcomed the news, urging members of the planning committee to reject the application when it comes back before them. He said: “The decision to grant permission at Model Farm was a betrayal of Rhoose and surrounding villages, so I am extremely pleased it has been quashed.” Local resident and Vale Communities Unite campaigner Maxine Levett said: “We’re very happy, we feel very relieved and very ecstatic that we have got to this point. We feel we have had some justice from the dismissive way that planning was conducted.”

This case of community resistance to an airport-related development is documented on EJAtlas, the world’s largest online database of social conflict around environmental issues: Business park on farmland next to Cardiff Airport, UK

Since the judicial review was announced the developers have resubmitted the business park plans.

WE NEED TO HAVE THE AVIATION CONVERSATION

An interesting article from the UK , WE NEED TO HAVE THE AVIATION CONVERSATION critiques Norwich Airport’s expansion plan, to treble its passenger number over the next 30 years. It is an example of the ‘predict and provide’ model of transport planning that assumes continued aviation growth as the starting point for all policy, which is incompatible with action on climate change. The article is reposted from The Norwich Radical website.

Heathrow as cargo cult

the next wave

Empty promiseEmpty promise

A long time ago, in an article I can no longer find, the Irish writer Fintan O’Toole developed the idea of “cargo cults” as the objects of politics. Heathrow and its expansion has long been such a cargo cult in British politics. To save non-anthropologist readers among you from having to google it, a cargo cult refers originally to the belief among Melanesian islanders that material wealth can be achieved through the ritual worship of an object. Pleasingly, some of the Melanesian cargo cults involved building models of runways and planes. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

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#StayGrounded at Heathrow Airport

Bicyclating

It’s back on the activism bike on the first day of October, for an action organised by Reclaim the Power called #StayGrounded.

The aim of the action day, part of a wider week of activities around the world, is to highlight the madness of airport expansion at a time when all the available, credible science is not just telling us, but yelling at us: stop extracting and burning fossil fuels!

Yep, a third runway at Heathrow will probably be given the green light this year, as part of this government’s deluded attempts to ‘keep Britain competitive’ and help transform us into a ‘global powerhouse’ post-Brexit (by importing and exporting more stuff to ever further flung destinations).

Oh, and to cater for the growing demand in leisure flights by frequent binge flyers here in the UK, and the swelling global middle class. Because it’s everyone’s right to fly as far and as often as…

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Leeds Bradford Airport plans ‘airport village’ on greenbelt land

In northern England, Leeds City Council plans to release 36.2 hectares of land to enable expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport, supporting its goal of doubling passenger numbers to 7.1 million by 2030. The land is currently designated as ‘greenbelt’ – green space surrounding urban areas that is protected from development, in order to ensure than urban dwellers have access to countryside and prevent urban sprawl. Adjacent to the airport terminal, the land in question is currently used for farming. In addition to an increase in terminal capacity to accommodate more passengers the land would be used for commercial development to support the growth of Leeds Bradford Airport – an ‘airport village’ consisting of a hotel, restaurants and shops, an air freight park and an ‘air innovation park’.

On 15th July opponents to Leeds Bradford Airport’s plans to concrete over greenbelt land gathered to protest outside the Leeds City Council Executive Board meeting which discussed the plans for a few minutes. As documented in the minutes of the meeting, attendees emphasized the Council’s continued support for expansion of the airport. The only note of caution was an assurance that consultation with ‘all relevant parties’ would be widespread and thorough.

Leeds Bradford Airport protest
Protest against allocation of greenbelt land for commercial development to support growth of Leeds Bradford Airport, 15th July 2015

The report proposing allocating the 36.2 hectares of greenbelt land to Leeds Bradford Airport had already been discussed at the Development Plan Panel on 26th June 2015. Its a lengthy document – 176 pages long. On page 5, the issue that land at the airport is already allocated for ’employment’ so therefore available for development, with most of it remaining under occupied, is raised. Airport supporters’ response to this point is that the scale of land allocation proposed will make it an attractive location, and it will be supported by promotion and marketing internationally to prospective tenants. Bizarrely, the supposed solution to vacant business space is supposedly to provide even larger space, and the established business space should have received more promotion and marketing support to reduce the risk of it languishing unoccupied.

Leeds_BradfordAirport map s
This map shows the greenbelt land, currently used for farming, that Leeds City Council wishes to release for commercial development to support expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport – the area within the red line

It is not as if there is a shortage of business space in Leeds or Bradford. Both cities have plenty of vacant business premises, already constructed or on land with planning permission for industrial/warehouse development. An industry website lists 157 industrial properties available to rent in Leeds. The largest is a new development, Leeds Distribution Park, adjacent to Junction 47 of the M1 Motorway, with planning permission for industrial/warehouse development up to a maximum single footprint of 750,000 sq ft (17 acres). The website lists 40 industrial properties available to rent in Bradford. The largest is Bronte Business Park, boasting 16 acres of development land allocated for employment use.

Leeds Bradford Airport, and its supporters at Leeds City Council, aims to support commercial development on greenbelt land with more than just promotion and marketing. They are angling for ‘Mini-Enterprise Zone’ status, as stated on the the document submitted to the Development Plan Panel, see page 13. This is already in place elsewhere in England, including at Manchester and Newquay airports. Designation as an ‘Enterprise Zone’ is a subsidy, as tenants are gifted a Business Rate tax exemption of up to £275,000 per eligible business. This tax break is unfair and unwarranted preferential treatment for tenants that are fortunate to be in the Enterprise Zone. In the case of airports, space in the Enterprise Zone is granted to businesses that are aviation dependent, thus maximizing use of the airport’s passenger and/or cargo facilities and facilitating airport growth.

Businesses which do locate in the Enterprise Zone may not even create jobs, as firms will be incentivized to relocate from other premises in order to take advantage of the tax break. The argument that the airport-linked commercial development  will boost the economy for neighbouring communities and the wider region, which the proponents of the project are most insistent about, is flawed. The shops, restaurant and hotel that are planned would result in air passengers spending more of their time, and money, on airport land, instead of stimulating economic activity in Leeds Bradford Airport’s host community.

Another aspect of the rationale for commercial development on green space is to strengthen the case for more ‘surface access’ to Leeds Bradford Airport. This means construction of another road link, a dual carriageway from the A65 in Rawdon to the A658. It would not come cheap and taxpayers would have to foot the bill. It is anticipated that public sector funding will be confirmed for the new link road. The route of this road plan is not revealed. Figure 13 in the report discussed by the Development Plan Panel entitled ‘Indicative Alignment of New LBIA Road Link’ is not actually included in the report, it is ‘TBC’, left blank. Already, Rawdon Greenbelt Action Group is campaigning against the link road; they are concerned that enormous swathes of greenbelt land will be damaged or lost altogether, along with the special landscape character of the area.

Leeds Bradford Airport’s ‘airport city’ plans are a smaller scale version of aerotropolis development that is already underway across the Pennine hills, at Manchester Airport. This is opposed by the Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport campaign group. There is also a Facebook page. Airport-linked business premises is being constructed on land formerly designated as ‘greenbelt’ and, under the guise of alleviating traffic congestion, construction of a link road, costing £290 million in public funds, has commenced. Calling the road a ‘relief road’ does not disguise the fact that it is designed to increase traffic to and from the airport. Most recently, hundreds of residents of High Lane village in Stockport, on the route of the new road, turned up to an exhibition to express their concerns over increased air pollution, noise and vibration from heavy vehicles.

There is strong opposition to aerotropolis development on green space, and associated road infrastructure, at both Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports. Linking up these campaigns will strengthen them.