Development of Lancing’s New Monks Farm could lead to pressure to close Shoreham Airport, a parliamentary figure has claimed.
Grant Shapps, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation, has written to Adur District Council in objection to plans for 600 homes and an IKEA.
New Monks Farm Development Limited – a subsidiary of Brighton and Hove Albion – dismissed the letter as ‘pure fantasy’ and ‘scaremongering’.
Mr Shapps wrote: “A development so close to an active airfield could lead to a substantial increase in noise complaints from residents, which would undoubtedly create pressure on the airport to either reduce its activity or close completely.”
Mr Shapps said the plans would mean aircraft had to fly directly over the site.
He argued this could create a ‘serious safety issue’ and ‘threaten the future’ of the two grass runways.
He went on to claim the plans would make helicopter flying ‘almost impossible’ because existing circuits were over the development site, putting resident helicopter firms at risk.
In response, Martin Perry, director of New Monks Farm Development Limited and James Scott, of Longbow – bank mortgagee of airport leaseholders Albermarle – issued a detailed response.
They said: “Mr Shapps was previously Minister of State for Housing and it is surprising to see that he has not recognised the need to deliver new homes and 30 per cent affordable homes to meet local growing population needs.
“It is a pity that Grant Shapps or members of the APPG failed to make any contact with either Adur District Council, New Monks Farm or the airport owners before sending out a letter with so many factual inaccuracies (which) completely fails to recognise the importance of these developments to the regeneration and economic development of the area.”
The duo said the grass runways would be ‘completely unaffected’ by the proposals.
They said existing helicopter training circuits would be adapted to avoid the new residential areas.
Although not part of the current planning application, the developer previously outlined a vision for 25,000 square metres of new commercial space at the airport. It is expected an application would come directly from the airport.
The current application, however, includes a new A27 roundabout, which would serve the development and the airport.
Mr Perry and Mr Scott argued the commercial space would help ‘safeguard’ the airport’s future, while the ‘do nothing scenario’ would risk the opposite.
The APPG letter drew support of Peter Villa, a shareholder in Apollo Aviation, in Cecil Pashley Way.
Mr Villa, who also manages an aircraft hanger and industrial units at the airport, echoed the letter’s concerns. He said: “I have had a business here since the 90s. I have kept planes here since the 70s and run businesses on the airport and been in aviation all my life and in my view the council and the airport is totally overlooking the necessity for airfield safeguarding.”