Plymouth City Council fights to block development on Plymouth Airport site
COUNCIL planners fought to block development on Plymouth Airport yesterday as a public inquiry into the north of the city got under way.
Plans by Sutton Harbour Holdings, the former airport operator, to create a new district centre at Roborough were "nonsensical", Jonathan Bell, the council head of development planning said.
He told government planning inspector Andrew Seaman that the area action plan for Derriford and Seaton set out to create a new heart for the north of the city. The airport site was "clearly in the wrong location", Mr Bell said.
The council wants to put a new shopping centre on the old Seaton Barracks parade ground.
BRAND NEW FORD B-MAX ZETEC 1.0 ECOBOOST FOR ONLY £7685*View details
DRIVE AWAY A BRAND NEW FORD B-MAX ZETEC FOR ONLY £7685.
1.0 100PS Manual
Electric Windows & Mirrors
Quickclear Heated Windscreen
15" Alloy Wheels
Bluetooth with Ford Sync
*Drive away from only £7685 and then pay nothing for 24 months!
Contact: 01626 240583
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
The hearing into the "soundness" of the plan was a battle for the heart of north Plymouth, with no fewer than four rival plans vying for supremacy.
The council and Wharfside Regeneration renewed their argument from last autumn over the suitability of the North West Quadrant site, next to Derriford Hospital.
Philip Robin for Wharfside said they were in a position to deliver much sooner than the other proposals.
"The site is available now. We already have a planning application, the car park is under construction," he said.
South West Water is proposing a major new shopping development on land it owns next to Crownhill Fort.
Thomas Hill, QC, for Sutton Harbour, dismissed the three rival bids. He told the hearing in the Jurys Inn in Plymouth that the council argued that Derriford was the centre of gravity for the area. "Our case is that it's the centre of congestion," Mr Hill said. "You should not inflict a district centre on this groaning part of the road network."
Mr Bell said that using the airport land was "completely contrary" to the city's core strategy, even though development was not explicitly ruled out.
Philip Heseltine, the council's head of transport strategy, said that half of all trips created by new development would need to be made without cars. Derriford hospital was the centre of the northern bus network and a new shopping centre in Roborough would mean unnecessary bus trips with low passenger numbers.
Mr Hill accused the planners of bowing to political pressure.
Richard Crocker, a director of Viable, which is bidding to buy the airport, told the inquiry: "We are not dreamers or romantics. We are experienced business people with vision."
Although a report commissioned by Plymouth City Council suggested the airport was not viable, Mr Crocker said that commercial judgement had no bearing on the planning issues.
He said Viable had had clarification directly from the Civil Aviation Authority that it could operate the site as an unlicensed aerodrome initially, and later acquire a licence.
He said Viable planned to extend the airport to 1,309 metres, making it comparable with London City Airport, and Sutton Harbour was the main obstacle.
Mr Hill said Sutton Harbour had also been in contact with the CAA and had confirmation that Viable would not get a licence for a runway of 1,319 metres, the length of London City Airport.
Richard Grant, the council's local plan team leader, said the new community in the north should have a High Street format and major food store but not compete with city centre.
But representatives for the two big city centre landowners, British Land and Prudential Property Investment Managers, said that too much space was being allowed for shops, which would lead to an exodus from the city centre.
The inquiry continues next week.