airbus A340 landing at Farnborough July 2002
'Farnborough is to become the Teterboro of London.' -- Roger McMullin, CEO TAG Aviation Group
A number of limits apply to TAG Aviation at Farnborough Airport.
There is a top limit of 28,000 movements per annum, there is then a limit of 2,500 movements at weekends, a limit on noise, a limit on weight and a limit on the number of heavier aircraft.
These formed part of the planning conditions set by Rushmoor Borough Council when planning consent was granted to TAG Aviation for permission to operate a business airport at Farnborough.
Against very strong objection from the local community, Rushmoor granted planning consent.
We were assured by the Council at the time that these conditions were set in stone and could not be altered.
It was obvious that at some time in the near future, one or more of these conditions would be breached. The question was what would happen next.
We were assured by TAG that they were happy with these conditions, could live with them, and had no wish to change them.
Condition 11, a limit of 2,500 movements over weekends and Bank holidays, has now been reached, TAG is having to turn away business at weekends.
The immediate response of TAG has been to apply for a relaxation of condition 11, they now wish to see a doubling of weekend and Bank holiday movements to 5,000 movements.
Were this limit to be relaxed, the rate of growth at Farnborough would accelerate, and TAG, sooner, rather than later, would hit another limit. TAG have already admitted that were condition 11 to be relaxed, weekend movements would immediately jump from 2,500 to 3,500 to 4,000 movements per annum.
TAG assure us that were these other limits to be reached, they would not breach or apply for a relaxation of these limits, but we have already seen (with their application to vary condition 11) that such assurances from TAG are worthless.
TAG claim there will be no increase in weight. The current Boeing Business Jet is based on the Boeing 737. The Local Plan was modified to accommodate the Boeing Business Jet as that was what TAG and their customers wanted.
The next generation of business jets are under development. TAG expect us to believe they will wish to turn away this business.
TAG are asking for a relaxation of condition 11, because they are having to turn away business.
Farnborough Airport is one of the few airports to have restrictions on flying hours. TAG claim there will be no increase in flying hours.
TAG operate a business airport, the European business airport (or so their publicity claims), a key component of globalisation. TAG are asking us to believe they can remain competitive in this globalised market place.
At the public inquiry into the Local Plan, potential users of Farnborough claimed the hours of operation were too restrictive.
TAG are asking for a relaxation of condition 11, because their Middle East customers work on Sunday.
TAG claim there will be no overall increase in movements if condition 11 is relaxed.
TAG have already admitted, that based on the business they are already turning away, their movements at weekends will immediately jump from 2,500 to 3,500 to 4,000 per annum.
TAG are asking for a relaxation of condition 11, the limit on weekend movements, because they do not wish to turn away business, but expect us to believe that they will be happy to turn away business when they reach the 28,000 limit.
Last year, TAG recorded 17,175 movements.
The claim by TAG in submitting their planning application for a variation of condition 11, that they have no wish to expand beyond 28,000 movements, has to be contrasted with what they have announced at past Farnborough Airshows, and extensively reported in the Aviation and Business Press, and in particular the comments by Roger McMullin, Geneva-based TAG Aviation Group CEO, that
'Farnborough is to become the Teterboro of London.'
Teterboro is the business airport for New York, a massive, 24-hour, round-the-clock operation.
TAG have stated (on several occasions) that they are seeking massive expansion. For example, at Farnborough International 2002, where Roger McMullin (Geneva based TAG CEO) stated Farnborough was to become 'the Teterboro of London'. Teterboro, operating out of New Jersey and serving New York, is a 24-hour round-the-clock operation, the world's busiest business airport. At Teterboro, local residents have managed to ban the Boeing Business Jet as not safe, cf Farnborough, where councillors overturned the Local Plan, only just agreed, to bump up the weight limit (50 tonnes to 80 tonnes) to allow the Boeing Business Jet to use Farnborough.
TAG has every intention of expanding, and it would be naive to believe otherwise.
Relaxation of condition 11, is part of that expansion.
Any change by TAG of the operation at Farnborough, should be discussed at the Farnborough Airport Consultation Committee. That is what FACC was established for.
Change of condition 11, a doubling of weekend movements, has never been raised, let alone discussed, at FACC.
FACC is a dysfunctional committee and has been since the day it was established. It is failing in its remit which is consultation with the local community. The local community should hold a third of the seats on FACC, and yet have only two seats out of 24 seats. The failure by TAG to bring before the committee their wish to vary condition 11, is yet another example of the failings of this committee.
Rushmoor councillors on FACC consistently fail to act in the interests of the local community. When issues are discussed, they either dismiss them as trivial and irrelevant or lack the ability to comprehend the discussion and make an intelligent input.
Farnborough is not a designated airport, and should be designated in order that it be properly covered by the relevant legislation.
The reason TAG put forward for wishing to see a doubling of flights, is that it is hitting their economic viability. This may be true, but that is TAG's problem, it is not the community's problem.
That TAG is not economically viable, is not a material planning consideration.
To put it even more plainly, it is not grounds for granting planning consent. Were the planning committee to do so, they would be opening the Council to Judicial Review.
To put this application in context. A Chinese restaurant, for example, is turning away business on Friday and Saturday nights as they lack sufficient room. They apply to the Council to double the size of the restaurant to squeeze in more tables and chairs. The Council would have no choice other than to turn down the application as the economic viability of the restaurant is not a material planning condition.
What applies to a Chinese restaurant equally applies to TAG. The Council cannot approve this application. Were the Council to do so, when there are no grounds for permitting the application, the Council would be challenged in the High Court.
Were the councillors to push through this application, knowing they were risking a High Court challenge, they would in turn open themselves up to being surcharged.
TAG assure us, that were they to hit the 28,000 limit, they would not challenge it on economic grounds. This assurance is somewhat questionable when they are doing just that with this application.
The limit on weekends was set for a reason. It was to give local residents a temporary reprieve from what they have to suffer every other day of the week.
TAG claim local residents are not affected by noise. The best judge of that are the local residents themselves, and our view is that we are affected by noise. Our lives are being made hell by noise.
TAG have defined air corridors for their movements over Farnborough. When they fail to comply, they put it down as authorised non-compliance.
Increasing weekend movements means more people will be affected as more people will be at home.
TAG have in the past argued that quieter aircraft should allow them to increase the number of movements to make full use of their permitted noise footprint. Any benefit to be derived from quieter aircraft should go to the local community, not to TAG in increased movements.
As aircraft get quieter, the noise footprint should be progressively reduced, cf Manchester and JFK (New York).
Doubling the movements at weekends, means from a safety viewpoint, the risk doubles. More people are home at weekends, so more people are at risk.
The current Local Plan had a limit of 50 tonnes for Farnborough, the previous limit was 35 tonnes. TAG wanted a limit of 80 tonnes as their customers wanted to fly in using the Boeing Business Jet (a modified Boeing 737, but carrying the fuel payload of a Boeing 747, ie 40 tonnes). The Local Plan was modified to suit TAG and their customers.
The current Local Plan has a limit of 2,500 weekend and Bank holiday movements. Is the Local Plan to once again be modified to suit TAG and their customers?
Everyone else has to abide by the Local Plan. Why do TAG and their customers receive special treatment?
We live in a world where terrorism and the threat of terrorism, is used to justify ever greater clampdowns on our civil liberties, ever more Draconian legislation.
Farnborough has no Immigration Control, no Customs Control, no Special Branch. Strange for an airport where a large percentage of the business is private jets flying in and out of the Middle East.
The planning system does not exist to maximise business profit at the expense of local residents.
TAG took a business risk, the same as every other business. If their business model proved deficient, that is their problem, not ours.
We cannot bail out failing businesses by allowing them to externalise their costs onto local communities.
The Council has no choice other than to REJECT this application.
Letters of objection should be sent to the Rushmoor Head of Planning as soon as possible (ref 05/00640/FUL):
Head of Planning
Stop Press: Birmingham has just announced massive airport expansion plans, a new terminal building, extension to the existing runway, construction of a second runway.