Bentwaters: Flying could ruin area’s tranquility and threaten £80m economy and jobs
Permitting an increase in flying at the former Bentwaters air base could ruin the tranquility of one of the most beautiful parts of Suffolk and damage its £80million economy, claim campaigners.
Opponents of the blueprint for the site say extra flying would ruin one of the main reasons people choose to visit the coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – reducing visitor numbers and threatening jobs.
The Alde and Ore Association, a charity which aims to preserve and protect the Alde and Ore Estuary, has suggested flying activities at the base should be moved to the Imperial War Museum’s airstrip at Duxford.
Owners of the old base, Bentwaters Parks have denied the new limits will increase the number of flights significantly, with flights restricted by planning permission to an average of less than two per day, and said the planning application aims to regularize activities at the site and safeguard the future of the Grace Spitfire and seven other heritage planes housed there.
Campaigners against the move though dispute this.
Alison Andrews, chairman of the Alde and Ore Association, said: “Our concern is that increased flying will ruin the peace and tranquility for which this area is renowned.
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“The estuary is internationally recognized and protected for its wildlife which will not survive disturbance of this magnitude.
“Visitors to the area contribute some £80m to the local economy.
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“This would be damaged if the peace and tranquility of the area was lost just at the time when visitors are most likely to come, so reducing the number of visitors and local employment numbers.”
The association said its recent economic study found the top five words offered by those who completed a questionnaire about what they valued about the area were scenery, tranquility, countryside, beauty and peace.
The association claims the proposed 960 flying movements a year is far more than at present and included no limit of how many will be heritage or commercial flights.
In a report, it said: “There are already about 10 commercial flights a month now and these occur without planning permission.
“While no more than 20 flights (40 movements) a week is proposed, they could mostly happen on a fine summer’s weekend and would not necessarily be spread out over the week.
“One heritage aircraft is special but a further possible seven old planes plus commercial flights is a different order of magnitude.”
Steven Bainbridge, of Evolution Town Planning, agents for Bentwaters’ owners, said he had spoken to the chairman of the association to answer the issues they were raising and was willing to attend a meeting to speak to them.
He said: “The applicants have gone to significant expense to assess their development against these issues, including that of tranquility, in an Environment Impact Assessment.”