TAG application to double weekend flights

A lot of money has been spent here, tens of millions. -- Sir Donald Spiers, TAG Aviation

Farnborough is to become the Teterboro of London. -- Roger McMullin, CEO TAG Aviation Group

As it is an essential commercial requirement to loosen the restriction on weekend aircraft movements to allow a total of 5,000 movements at weekends and bank holidays per annum, no alternatives have been considered. -- TAG Aviation

airbus A340 landing at Farnborough July 2002

TAG planning application to double weekend and Bank holiday movements from 2,500 movements per annum to 5,000 movements per annum.

Planning ref: 05/00640/FUL

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.

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 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.

As recent as March 2005, TAG were happy to say:

Applications for weekend flight would be rejected, if necessary, to ensure that the limits on such flights was not breached.

This would be done even if it might generate complaints from people who described themselves as good customers.

What TAG say depends entirely upon the audience they happen to be addressing at the time.

Condition 11, a limit of 2,500 annual movements over weekends and Bank holidays, has now been reached, TAG is having to turn away business at weekends.

TAG have admitted that not only are they losing business at weekends (from flights they are having to turn away), but some customers were now taking their weekday business elsewhere as a result of not being able to use Farnborough 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 per annum. So much for the assurances TAG gave in March, a little over 6 months ago.

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 heavier 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.

TAG say they do not wish to handle heavier aircraft, and give as example that they have turned away Roman Abramovich (Russian billionaire, owner of Chelsea FC). TAG give as the reason that they cannot handle heavier aircraft. This is not true, it is the planning conditions that are preventing Roman Abramovich from using Farnborough, not that Farnborough is incapable of handling heavier aircraft. [Lakeside Country Club, Sunday 4 December 2005]

TAG give their customers what they want. Their customers, global corporations, operate 7 days a week, want to use Farnborough at weekends. Which is why TAG want a relaxation of condition 11.

TAG are currently running their businesses at a loss. If a number of their customers wish to use heavier aircraft, are we to seriously believe TAG would wish to turn that business away?

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 proposed 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 would 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.

The Boeing 737 has a poor safety record. The Boeing Business Jet is based on the Boeing 737.

TAG has every intention of expanding, and it would be naive to believe otherwise.

Relaxation of condition 11, is part of that expansion.

Birmingham has recently announced massive airport expansion plans - a third passenger terminal building, extension to the existing runway, construction of a second runway - and yet TAG expect us to believe they have no interest in 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, prior to submission of the planning application.

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.

As it is an essential commercial requirement to loosen the restriction on weekend aircraft movements to allow a total of 5,000 movements at weekends and bank holidays per annum, no alternatives have been considered. As set out in the Supporting Statement, there is a strong economic business case for the Section 73 application to vary Condition 11. As no alternatives have been studied by TAG, none have been assessed in this ES.

At a meeting organised and chaired by Michael Gove MP at Lakeside, TAG were forced to admit that they were turning away 10-15 flights every weekend, at a cost to them of £1.5 million, that they were currently losing £5 million per annum. [Lakeside Country Club, Sunday 4 December 2005]

This is TAG's problem. It is not for the planning system to externalise costs onto the local community, or to bail out failing businesses.

But let's put these figures in context. TAG feel it is okay to shift their costs onto the local community. Apart from the misery of more noise at weekends and bank holidays, we would have the negative impact on local property prices. If we were to sum the loss over every householder, we would find the loss far exceeded the loss that TAG are suffering. Thus far from benefiting the local economy, as TAG falsely claim, TAG would be having a negative impact on the local economy.

That TAG admit to turning away 10-15 flights every weekend gives an idea by how much weekend movements would immediately jump were condition 11 to be relaxed.

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.

Take another example. A factory producing widgets, is pouring contaminated waste into the River Blackwater. It asks for a relaxation of its pollution permit, as these controls are hitting its profit margin. It wants to put twice as much contaminated waste into the River Blackwater. The answer would be no.

Noise pollution is pollution. It is no different to emissions from a factory chimney or waste pouring from an overflow pipe.

What applies to a Chinese restaurant or a maker of widgets 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 and put before the Standards Board.

TAG is clutching at straws when they claim their expansion plans are to the benefit of local businesses. No doubt that is why we have such thriving town centres!

It is laughable that TAG are benefiting local restaurants and hotels.

Are we to believe that wealthy business men and Arabs avoid the delights of London, preferring instead to visit local establishments, that they pop into Farnborough to do a bit of shopping, maybe stay on to sample the delights of Aldershot nightlife, get into a druken brawl, throw up in the street?

Get real!

TAG is a business airport for London. It competes with City of London Airport and Biggin Hill. Its clientele fly in for a meeting and back out again, or are on a pleasure trip to London, possibly a combination of the two. They do not even notice that Farnborough exits.

TAG has been voted the No 1 European business airport. Its clientele are IBM, Nokia, Coca-Cola, global corporate businesses. These are the businesses that benefit from TAG.

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.

It also does not accord with what TAG director Sir Donald Spiers recently told the Farnham Herald:

Farnborough Airport has grown into the successful business hub for Farnborough and beyond. In order to sustain this, we need to make this alteration to our weekend and bank holiday movements. This is to meet the business demands created by companies who need to operate their businesses worldwide on a seven-day-a-week basis.

Or in other words, Sir Donald Spiers and TAG Aviation are in the businesses of giving their customers want they want. That is what TAG are in business for.

At a meeting of the Farnborough Airport Consultative Committee held on 17 November 2005, TAG said their customers, people like IBM, Nokia, operated in the global economy on a 7-day week, they wanted to use Farnborough 7 days a week. TAG were in the business of giving their customers what they wanted. If their customers wanted 7 days operation at Farnborough, then TAG wished to give them 7 days operation.

A point made from the floor was that TAG was operating in the global economy, IBM, Coca-Cola and the like, operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and TAG gave their customers what they wanted.

TAG failed to respond to 24 hours a day.

It is global corporations that benefit from Farnborough Airport not local businesses. The very same global corporations that put local businesses out of business the world over, including Farnborough.

At the November meeting of FACC, from both around around the table and from the floor, a great deal of anger was expressed at the failure to properly notify the local community of this planning application. Anger that was again expressed at an open public meeting held in Mytchett on the following day.

An example of their weekend business, was a recent trip to Venice by Michael Winner to celebrate his 70th birthday. He chartered a 54-seater executive aircraft to take 27 guests on a weekend junket. Why could he have not taken the Euro train same as everyone else or gone on scheduled airlines? So that Winner can have a bit of fun, TAG make a bit of dosh, thousands of local residents have to have their weekend peace and quiet disturbed. Not exactly a very equitable bargain. [Daily Mail, 1 November 2005]

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.

Condition 11 Number of Flights:

No more than 28,000 aircraft movements per annum shall take place of which no more than 2,500 shall be at weekends or bank holidays. Reason: To protect the amenities of surrounding residential properties and to accord with the Rushmoor Local Plan (1996-2011) Review.

Nothing has changed. The local residents still require to have their local amenities protected. They would experience a deterioration in their local amenities, furthermore, as residential development has been permitted within the affected area since condition 11 was set, more people are living within the affected area, and more people would experience a deterioration of their amenities were condition 11 to be relaxed to allow a doubling of movements over Bank holidays and weekends.

The only grounds for relaxation of condition 11 would be if the area had been cleared of people, and thus no local amenities to protect. As this is not the case, that even more people now live in the local area, there can be no grounds to relax condition 11. In fact the contrary now applies, as more people are now affected, there are grounds for tightening condition 11.

TAG (and Rushmoor councillors who appear to be their self-appointed spokesmen) 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.

Members of Parliament are receiving a growing mailbag on aircraft noise, as more and more people are being affected. [Hansard, Tuesday 8 November 2005]

Do the TAG proposals remain within the limits of World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on exposure to aircraft noise?

TAG use average noise. Average noise is meaningless. What affects people, is peak noise, and the frequency of these peaks. Doubling the number of weekend movements, will double the number of peak noise events.

TAG claim a 3dB increase in noise is barely perceptible. Not true. A 1dB increase is barely perceptible, a 3dB increase, representing a doubling in noise power, is a perceptible increase in noise level.

To deny local residents the right to quiet enjoyment of their family life is a clear breach of the Human Rights Act.

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.

TAG wish to see the noise contours, ie the noise footprint, to be the boundary on the upper limit of movements:

Within the (noise) contour that is proposed to form the long-term means of environmental control of the aviation operations, TAG has an agreed limit of 28,000 movements per annum. This limit is subject to future review in the light of the monitoring of noise levels and conformity with the contour arrangement.

Were the noise footprint to set the upper limit, rather than it be set at 28,000 movements, with the introduction of quieter aircraft, we would see the total number of movements rise well beyond 28,000 per annum.

This once again exposes the lie that TAG do not wish to expand beyond 28,000 movements. By using noise contours as the limiting factor, they are in essence trying to move the goal posts.

The 28,000 annual limit excludes light aircaft, helicopters, military, diplomatic, and Airshow movements.

As aircraft get quieter, the noise footprint should be progressively reduced, cf Manchester and JFK (New York).

The Council has been banging on for years that local residents are being disurbed by noise from the M3 Motorway, and yet turns a blind eye to the far greater noise nuisance from Farnborough Airport.

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.

Failure to consider the safety implications of those affected, would be seen as a serious breach of the Human Rights Act, the right to life.

To one end of the runway we have residential development, at the other end heathland, then residential.

Southern Britain was once covered with heathland, now all we have are small highly fragmented areas. In recognition of the important ecological value and fragile nature of the remaining heathland, the EU has declared the heathland at the end of the runway to be part of the Thames Basin Special Protection Area under the European Birds Directive, apart from a World Heritage Site, an SPA is one of the highest possible designations.

What long term studies have been carried out as to the impact on this fragile ecosystem of low flying aircraft? Until such studies are carried out, the Council should not even be considering a doubling of movements, let alone granting planning consent. To do otherwise would be seen as a clear breach of a European Directive, and could lead to legal action being taken against the Council.

Surrey Heath has called a halt to any development which could impact on surrounding heathland which is part of the Thames Basin SPA. Surrey Heath has done so on the basis of legal advice. Even something as small as subdividing a house into flats is seen as having a significant impact.

It would be difficult to imagine a greater impact than an expanding airport adjoining an SPA.

What legal advice has been sought by the Rushmoor, and if not, why not?

The Thames Basin SPA came into being in March 2005 and it has been known of for some time. If Rushmoor has not sought legal advice, then it would be seen as yet another example of maladministration and dereliction of duty by the head of planning, and yet further grounds for referral to the Local Authority Ombudsman.

The current Local Plan had a limit of 50 tonnes for Farnborough Airport, 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 per annum. 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.

Liberty has recently named Farnborough Airport as one of the airports being used by the CIA for extraordinary rendition, ie shipping terror suspects out to unknown destinations to be tortured. It would be difficult to imagine an airport more suitable than Farnborough, no customs, no immigration control, no Special Branch, and with regular flights out to the Middle East. Legal opinion is that this practice is illegal, a breach of national and international law. Liberty has asked the Chief Constable of Hampshire Paul Kernaghan to investigate.

David Luban, law professor at Georgetown University (currently a visiting professor at Stanford University):

The argument makes no sense unless there is an assumption that the purpose of rendition is to send people to a place where things could be done to them that could not be done in the United States. Rendition doesn't become a tool in the war against terror unless people are being sent to a place where they can be interrogated harshly.

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.

A business airport in today's world of climate change and global warming is an anachronism. When aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases, it is totally unacceptable to a have near-empty aircraft ferrying around the world people full of their own self-importance. Have they not heard of video conferencing, trains, scheduled airlines?

Planning documents

The official notification of this planning application has been abysmal. People affected by noise from the airport have not received official notification from the Council. All what they know, is what they have read in the local press. Head of Planning is aware of this lack of official notification, and seems to be content to do nothing to rectify the situation. In the light of recent planning fiascoes and successful legal challenges, one would have thought that lessons would have been learnt, but apparently not. To the credit of TAG, they have done a better job (via their 'greenwash' PR company) of notifying local residents than has the Council. The Council is failing in its statutory obligations to officially notify all affected parties of this planning application.

This document

Failure to place this document before all members of the planning committee will be seen as a clear breach of the Human Rights Act, the right to a fair hearing.



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The author of this report held a post-doctoral research fellowship at ISVR, widely regarded worldwide as the leading authority and foremost research organisation in the field of noise and vibration. The author's unit dealt with the human affects of noise and vibration. As a local resident the author is able to observe at first hand the unacceptable level of noise that this application imposes on the local community.
Surrey-Hants ~ Farnborough ~ Farnborough Airfield ~ Inspector's report ~ Rushmoor modifications to Local Plan ~ TAG planning application ~ TAG condx 16 & 17 ~ TAG Aviation Section 106 environmental monitoring
(c) Keith Parkins 2005-2006 -- March 2006 rev 16