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Aviation: Gamston Airport housing threat

Gamston Airport in Nottinghamshire is under threat of being redeveloped for housing - the latest in a long of list that has at various times included Kemble (Cotswold), Redhill, Wellesborne Mountford, Plymouth, Manston and Long Marston airfields. The proposal to build a 'green village' at Gamston was produced by Bassetlaw District Council as part of a strategic plan for the period to 2035. If its ideas are implemented, 625 dwellings will be built at Gamston over the next 16 years, and a further 1,825 will be added at a later date.

Gamston isn't a major commercial airport, but it is thriving centre for general aviation (GA), pilot training and corporate flights. It is home to more than 100 aircraft ranging from light singles to private jets and helicopters. There are two flight schools on site, as well as related undertaking support and maintenance activities. So although no scheduled airline services are threatened by the proposed development, closure of Gamston could impact aviation in the UK; it would reduce opportunities for would be pilots in the area to learn to fly and restrict corporate and recreational flying in the region, all of which generate money for the local economy.

The proposals came as something of a surprise because the UK government has been making pro-GA noises over the last year or two and seemed to be prepared to protect our airfields. That's not to say there was an expectation that every facility in the country would be safe, but there was at least a belief that a broad selection of smaller airports would no longer targets for housing redevelopment. Gamston seemed to be on a fairly sure footing as one of the better developed general aviation airfields in the UK, which is usually quite busy.

Strategic airfields network

The UK Government's General Aviation Strategy of March 2015 set out a vision that aimed to make the UK “the best place in the world for GA as a flourishing, wealth generating and job producing sector of the economy”. Another Government document 'Beyond the Horizon: The Future of UK Aviation - Next Steps Towards an Aviation Strategy’ published in April 2018 restated the importance of general aviation and recognised concerns about airfields at risk of closure.

Back in February 2018, Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: "Smaller airfields and the pilots who use them contribute £3bn to our economy and support more than 38,000 jobs, be that through business jet operations, flying schools or leisure flying."

At the time she appointed Byron Davies, former-MP and the founding Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), to the role of General Aviation Champion at the Department for Transport. Baroness Sugg explained that part of Davies' role would be to help identify a network of UK aerodromes that are most important for non-scheduled flying to flourish: "We want to preserve these benefits of general aviation and ensure appropriate and proportion