Calls to replace Gloucestershire Airport with a ‘garden village’ closing the gap between Gloucester and Cheltenham have been shot down by councils which own the site.
One councillor is leading calls to move the airport and use the Staverton site for housing, employment, green space, community buildings and transport links.
Tewkesbury borough councillor Graham Bocking (C, Innsworth) said the idea could bring in around £5million a year in council taxes and relieve pressure on surrounding greenfield sites in Innsworth, Twigworth and Churchdown currently earmarked for hundreds of homes.
But Gloucester City Council and Cheltenham Borough Council, which own the site, have hit back at the idea and the airport itself says it makes a big contribution to the local economy.
Mr Bocking said: “The airport site is big enough to take much of the housing currently proposed at Innsworth, Twigworth and Churchdown. It is a far better location, next to the A40 and the main commuter route. It doesn’t flood.
“We cannot go on simply clogging up our rural roads or building new ones and despoiling our landscape, especially when there is a major site in public ownership that is in every respect the best option.
“It is vital that the councils now step up and act in the public’s interest rather than just responding to developers’ wishes.”
Gloucestershire Airport was identified as a site for potential development of up to 3,500 new houses in the early stages of the Joint Core Strategy – a masterplan to bring 35,000 extra homes to the county by 2030.
But this was later dropped in favour of development of hundreds of homes in Innsworth, Twigworth and Churchdown.
Mr Bocking said the airport land is worth more than £300million, and council tax payers subsidise flying activity by more than £400,000 per year.
He said the airport should be moved to a more suitable location to make room for the new village.
But Gloucestershire Airport denied receiving any public subsidy and described Mr Bocking’s comments as “wholly inaccurate.”
In a joint statement, the airport’s operations director Darren Lewington and managing director Mark Ryan, said: “Gloucestershire Airport is the busiest general aviation airport in the UK, handling 80 000 flights per year.
“It is home to around 180 aircraft operated by more than 40 aviation and aerospace businesses. These support over 1100 jobs including a range of highly skilled and professional roles, contributing over £200m to the local economy. It receives no public subsidy.”
Last month Cheltenham Borough Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council and Gloucester City Council approved an interim plan for the Joint Core Strategy.
But Mr Bocking is now calling for another review of the airport site in comparison to the areas proposed for development in the strategy.
Councillor Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council (LD, All Saints), said such a move would reverse years of work.
He said: “The airport is in green belt and the intention of green belt is to prevent Cheltenham and Gloucester merging in to each other. The Joint Core Strategy takes the approach of supporting the overall concept of green belt while accepting that some less sensitive areas of it are needed for development to meet to local housing and employment need.
“To accept councillor Bocking’s proposal would reverse this and in effect mean scrapping both the Joint Core Strategy and the concept of green belt. Since the Joint Core Strategy is now nearing completion and after many years work, councillor Bocking’s last minute suggestion risks leaving our whole area with no plan and open to random development. This isn’t something I would support.”
A report last year suggested merging Gloucester and Cheltenham into one massive metropolitan area to increase its economic prowess.
Third Life Economics said a Gloucester-Cheltenham hybrid would be a top 30 city similar in size to Derby or Plymouth.
Councillor Paul James, leader pf Gloucester City Council (C, Longlevens) has previously said he wouldn’t want to see the two areas merge physically.
He said: “The city council’s settled policy is for the airport to continue with that use and therefore the land is not available for housing.
“This option was looked at early in the Joint Core Strategy process and was discounted. The strategy has reached an advanced stage and I don’t believe it is in anyone’s interests to take us back to square one.”
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