Air club expansion set for take off

Controversial plans to extend the use of a local airstrip look set to be approved despite huge opposition from residents and councillors.

Tuesday, 16th August 2016, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th August 2016, 9:34 am
The airstrip at Kenyon Hall Farm used by Lancashire Aero Club

Wigan Council’s planning committee will consider the application by Lancs Aero Club for extra use of the site at Kenyon Hall Farm in Lowton this week.

The club wants permission to use the strip 365 days a year compared to the 28 days it is currently allowed to use the facility under permitted development.

The proposal has encountered massive opposition from Lowton residents, with Wigan Council receiving 190 letters of objection on matters including damage to the site of special scientific interest (SSSI) next to the site, safety fears and complaints over noise and traffic.

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Officers have provoked fresh fury by recommending the planning committee approves the club’s application with conditions, with ward representative Coun James Grundy hitting out.

Coun Grundy said: “This is one of the most environmentally-sensitive sites in the borough and the fact the council is prepared to approve an airstrip next to an SSSI in the heart of the green belt appals me and many people in Lowton.

“I cannot understand why officers have decided to give this a free pass.”

The application also asks for a container on site to be retained, a car park to be laid out and the access track to Winwick Lane improved.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) has also objected to the development and St Helens Council says it is too close to the proposed Parkside development site.

However, a report prepared for the planning committee says sport or recreation is permitted within the green belt and guidance on aerodrome use is not compulsory.

The matter will be decided by the committee due to the high number of letters both for and against the plans received by Wigan Council.

Lancs Aero Club has previously defended its proposal, saying planes are no louder than traffic and flying times are restricted by the weather and members’ working hours.

Club chairman Cliff Mort said earlier this year: “There is no doubt that many of the aircraft seen by residents are passing and not using the club’s farm strip.

“In response to residents’ concerns I have categorically stated there will be no petrol on site.”