The airfield at Little
Gransden began its aerodrome life in 1966 and by 1992 a total of 7 hangars (accommodating
approximately 70 aircraft) and 3 runways (one of which was later to be licensed) had been
built. A small aircraft related business was established and business generally was going
well. However, in 1992 the first planning difficulties were encountered. South
Cambridgeshire District Council issued a Planning Contravention Notice. The first impact
was a loss of customers due to the uncertainties surrounding the planning issue.
The aerodrome owners response was an
application for a lawful development certificate based on at least 10 years continuous
use. Initial consultations with the council went well, but the organisation of opposition
under the title of Cambridgeshire Airfields Action Group (CAAG) started to make things
difficult. CAAG circulated a leaflet which was perceived as scare-mongering and which
forced the airfield to respond with its own leaflet. The council being an elected body,
its planning committee became conscious of public opinion, a concern which began to inform
its decisions. As the influence of CAAG increased, an inquiry became inevitable. In 1995
the first enforcement notice against the airfield was issued, and the stage was set for a
full public inquiry.
The inquiry was scheduled to last 2-3 days. It
actually lasted some 17 days, with all the associated costs for lawyers and planning
consultants. Evidence was meticulously gathered and prepared and a good overall knowledge
of the case and easy retrieval of even the slightest scrap of evidence proved invaluable.
On more than one occasion flaws and inconsistencies in the opposition case were exposed as
a result. Support for both sides was expressed in writing in roughly equal numbers,
although the objectors camp had produced a standard proforma letter whilst those of the
airfield supporters were individually written. Support from the local community was based
on the genuine place of the airfield operators within that community. The family had been
farming the land since the 1920's, were well established in the community, and were able
to draw on contacts there for support (to the extent that a petition was raised quite
spontaneously, and some supporters have gone on to take up flying lessons).
The decision of the planning inspector, based
in part on the premise that a 6 fold increase in movements did not constitute a material
planning consideration, was announced in favour of the airfield in April 1999. The
airfield owners are currently pursuing the council for the considerable costs of the