This was expected to be highly controversial, at least TAG thought so by the number of security personnel they had on hand (there is usually none), but it proved to be a damp squib.
The discussion kicked off with an extremely biased introduction by the committee chairman, how long there had been business aviation at Farnborough etc etc.
There was then a discussion around the table which did not amount to much. TAG were criticised for the lack of notification on their application (the criticism should have been leveled at Rushmoor, the planning authority). More than one councillor raised that the public don't like it, and wanted to know from TAG how to get their application across to the public.
TAG said there was a businesses case for lifting the limits on weekend flights. Their customers, the IBMs and Coca-Colas of the world were operating in a global economy, operated 7 days a week, therefore TAG needed to operate 7 days a week with no restrictions. TAG were a business, and did not like the fact that they were turning away business.
We learnt from the chairman that the planning deadline for comments has been extended by three weeks. There has been no official statement on this from Rushmoor, indeed, only at the beginning of the week, Rushmoor head of planning was refusing to extend the deadline, refusing to notify those who had yet to receive official notification.
It was then the public's turn (the committee chairman condescends to let the public have a few minutes, crumbs to the peasants).
Surrey Heath Councillor David Whitcroft, representing Mytchett, criticised TAG for failing to bring their exhibition to Mytchett, and that what he had seen of the exhibition failed to address any of their concerns.
TAG were criticised for the poor quality of their exhibition (pretty pictures but little else), that the failure to notify was not the fault of TAG (who are under no obligation), but that of Rushmoor (the planning authority who are under a statutory obligation to notify all affected parties), that there has been an abysmal failure to notify by Rushmoor and it illustrated the contempt by the head of planning for the local community. When the head of planning had finally responded to queries from the public, he had refused to properly notify, refused to extend the deadline for comments (normal behaviour for the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor).
It was recognised that TAG had a business case for doubling flights, but it was not in the interest of the local community, who did not want an increased nuisance at weekends, a doubling of movements meant a doubling of noise. It also had safety implications for weekends, a doubling of movements meant the doubling of the risk of a crash at weekends. It was not acceptable that TAG should externalise their costs onto the local community.
The planning conditions for restricting the number of movements still applied, ie to protect the amenity of local residents.
This ought to have provoked some sort of discussion, but it did not, it was like floating a lead balloon.
There was absolutely no discussion of the merits or otherwise of the TAG application. Which once again begs the question: Why does this committee exist?
The meeting was a wasted opportunity. There is never any proper discussion of any planning application by Rushmoor, the planning authority for this application. Here was the opportunity to have an informed discussion of the merits or otherwise of the TAG application. An opportunity that was simply thrown away.
TAG were asked why did they not bring the application before the committee, before they submitted a planning application. TAG said it was not for them to discuss their operations with the committee. And yet that is the sole rationale for the committee's existence.
TAG then offered the lame excuse that their decision to double weekend movements fell between committee meetings. That a special meeting could have been called was ignored.
The only explanation for the lack of discussion was that the committee had met informally one hour before to look over the TAG plans, and points had been raised and discussed there.
The councillors were a little more awake than usual, although it is only because they have had a good hammering from the public who do not wish to see this application approved.
One councillor said he could understand why TAG were making this application, as he used to operate from the airport, and he could see it made business sense. His problem was how to get this across to the people in his area.
Consultation can only happen if there is a dialogue with the local community. This is still not happening.
The only useful points to be flushed out were that TAG have been voted the Business Airport for Europe. They were there to service the global economy, their customers were global corporations that operated 7 days a week, did not recognise weekends. Or in other words, Farnborough Airport is a key component of globalisation.
The committee finished much earlier than usual.
Next committee meetings:
16 March 2006
?? July 2006