Northrepps airfield, near Cromer, is granted permanent planning permission

It's chocks away for pilots after a north Norfolk airfield was granted permanent planning permission yesterday - but a bitter dogfight will see council chiefs defending their policy in the High Court next month.

Members of North Norfolk District Council's development committee, meeting yesterday, voted to give Northrepps Aerodrome the go-ahead despite protests including fears for its impact on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the noise and privacy invasion suffered by surrounding residents.

Objectors are especially unhappy at 'lawn-mower' engine noise and circuit flying by microlights, gyrocopters and paramotors using the airfield, near Cromer.

But councillors heard that there had been some 225 letters and emails supporting owner Chris Gurney's application for the site, at Winspur Farm, and only 15 letters of objection.

However, the district council must defend itself on November 9 after a solicitor acting on behalf of a number of opponents lodged an application for Judicial Review of the council's alleged failure to take enforcement action when the airfield's temporary planning permission expired in May.

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The council will argue that the application for permanent permission had been lodged in March and its normal policy is not to take enforcement action pending a decision on a follow-up application. Officers say the airfield application has taken a long time to consider because of its complexity.

Backers, including Northrepps Parish Council, cite the benefits to tourism and local businesses the airfield brings to the area and its use by the emergency services, including the East Anglian Air Ambulance, and members of the Royal family visiting north Norfolk.

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Lorna Fish, parish council vice chairman, believed the airfield was sometimes unfairly blamed for aircraft taking off and landing at other sites, and she added that the seven-days-a-week helicopters visiting the North Sea rigs were far more likely to 'rattle my ornaments.'

But representatives from the parish councils at Southrepps and Sidestrand said they were opposed to the application.

Sidestrand chairman Ivor Watkins feared it could result in eight to 12 daily aircraft movements in good weather and he asked for detailed evidence of the airfield's benefits. Mr Watkins said the 225 supporters came from flying clubs across the UK and were not local residents who had a right to enjoy their lives undisturbed by intrusion.

James Brooke, of property consultants Bidwells, said he represented a consortium of landowners and, rather than boosting tourism, the airfield was starting to have the opposite effect.

Kevin Smith, of the Northrepps Aero Club, said the airfield, 'a small grass strip for small, non-commercial aircraft' stood out among the 47 in Norfolk because it was the most heavily restricted.

He claimed they had a good relationship with Natural England and brought visitors to the area.

And district councillor for Northrepps, Angie Fitch-Tillett, said there were no legitimate planning, environmental or safety reasons to refuse the application.

Members heard that the district council's environmental protection officer, conservation, design and landscape manager, and Natural England had no objections to the possibility of two airfield operating in Northrepps.

Chris Gurney moved in 2007 from a site, owned by his cousin Simon Gurney, on land off New Road and councillors were told that a new operator is now being sought for that original strip.

Chris Gurney's permission includes restrictions on circuit flying and aircraft movements. He must also apply for planning permission to keep car-park works, a portable building used as a cafe, an access track, and two buildings used as aircraft hangars.

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