Parish Letters from local newspapers

Thursday March 8 2018

Allowing night flying would be irresponsible

I am grateful to your letter-writers for explaining how millions of pounds of council funds are going to the airport, even though it makes a loss and it fails its targets.

It is wrong to use the councils’ own business park income to subsidise flying, as most activity on the business park is unrelated to the airport.

I am tipping people off about a planning application at the airfield, for a three-storey high accommodation block for flight training.

The applicant wants to develop in the Green Belt by the airport because evening and night-time flying would be part of the training.

Gloucester and Cheltenham council tax payers now face the prospect of underwriting training flights which could operate any time. day and night. The extra noise impacts could blight people's properties as well as disturb their sleep.

The misery of night-flying noise and the financial impact of blighted properties would far outweigh the claimed benefits from the training.
A garden village is wanted by some Tewkesbury borough councillors — this would bring far greater economic gain to local people and the councils than the loss-making airport.

We are punishing ourselves with the continued subsidy-troughing allowed at the airport to cap it off by permitting night flying would show our councils to be truly dumb as well as irresponsible.

Nina Dyke

Thursday March 8 2018

Airport land can be put to better use

So, the latest accounts confirm the gloomy outlook for Gloucestershire Airport (Letters, February 22).

The airport continues to take public funds which we badly need for council services.
There is an aerospace industry in Gloucestershire, but it does not depend on the airport near Staverton.
The irony is that Gloucestershire Airport actually needs the surrounding non-aviation businesses on the council's business park for its very survival, partly living off their rents.
The unviable airport sometimes quotes the worth of these neighbouring businesses as if it's responsible for them, but they are unrelated to the airport — the airport cannot claim to have created their jobs.

Many alternatives for the airfield have been suggested over the years.
One idea has been a combined Cheltenham and Gloucester hospital on this council-owned land.

Last year a garden village was proposed by Councillor Graham Bocking, as a sustainable settlement and an alternative to building on the flood plain.
The outline plan is exciting, with greenspace and safe cycleways linking up the vibrant settlement.

Councillor Bocking suggested that Staverton's aviation activities could be moved to Kemble to prevent the demise of Gloucestershire Airport.
A garden village would benefit people directly and bring major economic gains.

The land sale would unlock funds for our councils to invest in services and fund the much-needed light rail system for Cheltenham, Gloucester and Churchdown which is being mooted.

The land should be used much more productively for local people and the councils.

Sarah Seccombe

Thursday March 1 2018

Little benefit to locals from the airport

HOORAY for the letter from Andrew Nicol (Letters, February 22) about the viability of the airport.

I have been making similar arguments for years both in letters to this newspaper and by tackling individual city councillors.

The airport was purchased by the two councils in 1936 and ever since they have been reluctant to let go of it. The land occupied by the airport is worth many millions of pounds even at agricultural values and yet resources are ploughed into it with almost no return.

The airport is little used by the citizens of Gloucester and Cheltenham but benefits only a few relatively wealthy folk from outside the immediate area.
Ratepayers continue to subsidise this facility.
I have never been an advocate of privatisation but in this case I am prepared to make an exception.

Keith Walden

Thursday February 22 2018

Questions over the future viability of the airport

The financial troubles of Gloucestershire Airport made for much local news last year.

The airport needed an emergency loan of £750,000 from the two owning councils (Cheltenham and Gloucester), and the airport’s continual underwriting from the councils became apparent, stretching to hundreds of thousand of pounds a year.

The airport’s latest accounts shed more light on the airport’s problems.

In fact the 2016—17 accounts were signed off in June last year but were not filed with Companies House until late December 2017.

This delay was highly convenient for the airport given the key discussions on the Joint Core Strategy in June and July, when locations for development were being concluded.

Gloucestershire airport made an operating loss in 2016—17, even after it collected the business park rents.

The two owning councils (Cheltenham and Gloucester) allow it to collect and keep 90 per cent of the rent from their business parks — this is at least £500,000 a year according to the airport business plan.

This effectively cross-subsidises the flying even though activities in the business parks are mostly unrelated to aviation.

The airport net assets were re-valued in the latest accounts to a figure of £23 million. From this amount the two councils receive nothing each year — indeed a negative return given the business park rent which they forego.

And there will be liabilities if the airport is allowed to struggle on.

For instance there could be a big cost coming up to resurface runways, and on the labour side, the airport has built up pension liabilities up to £2 million even though airport staff only amount to around 50.

The airfield land value is calculated to be at least £300 million.

Cheltenham and Gloucester councils continue to cut public services and shed staff while the uneconomic airfield sits there as a major land asset they could realise.

The airport’s business plan priority is to raise business flights from 1,600 to 2,000 a year.
But latest figures show no increase in business flights at Gloucestershire airport over the past 5 years.

The airport’s main activity is club circuit flying.

On a web forum last year one of the airport directors referenced Gloucestershire Airport as “we as recreational flyers” and the main club use as “circuit bashing puddle jumpers”.

But when they need to spin this, the airport brands itself as the busiest general aviation airport, which is a result of all these club circuits.

Year on year we as council tax payers are effectively subsiding this activity to the tune of millions.

Last year Cotswold Airport said it could host flying activity that needed to relocate from Staverton.

The Gloucestershire Airport accounts support the case for this.

Andrew Nichol
Down Hatherley

Saturday August 5 2017

Build a new town to take all the extra houses

READERS of the Citizen were advised to make our feeling known and make our representations regarding the Joint Core Strategy (Citizen, August 2).

If several million of us submitted exactly the same opinion/criticism it would make not one iota of difference to the end result.

Joe Public in general is firmly convinced that decisions, strongly backed by big bucks, have been made behind closed doors and have all but been ratified.

Readers of these columns know full well my opposition to the daylight robbery of our flood plain which should be stopped immediately.

A new town should be built south of Gloucester city to take in all the needs of the so-called JCS so that the resulting drain off can be channelled into that part of the river which has direct access to the sea.

This would not prevent all the villages and hamlets directly north of this city from Longford and Minsterworth right out to and including Tewkesbury from further threat of flooding, no matter what the powers that be proudly crow about what has been done since 2007.
Why? Consider the man-made dams that will always exist, because no authority has the resources to correct past mistakes, Hempsted tip and the northern bypass.

Consider also, all the local authorities beyond Gloucestershire, in Worcester- shire and Herefordshire — they too are being urged to build, build, build and where does the drain-off go?

Well where else but the River Severn and the river has its natural course which has been blocked. It also has its natural flood escape which is now being built on.

Back to your original headline: “Have a say” Well an ashtray on a motor bike would be just about as much use.

Dave Lynham

Tuesday August 1 2017

Council priorities are not right

IT’S been depressing to read of recent council cut backs.

On July 14 you reported the reduced budget for the new Gloucester bus station.

it is now being down-scaled and this is rightly criticised by local businesses and The Citizen newspaper itself.

Next, on July 18 you report the potential merger of museums, meaning the city's Folk Museum would be effectively closed because of tough decisions made by the cash-strapped city council.

But there is something not right in Gloucester City’s priorities.

As you have also reported this year, the airport at Staverton is heavily dependent on public finance.

It is currently underwritten by half a million pounds a year at least, and in some years it gets hugeone—off payments such as £930,000 in 2016 for a long lease rent on the councils’ business parks by the airport.

So, Gloucester City Council is cutting investment in public transport for local people who need it, and it is also having to close museums and cut spending on culture.

But meanwhile at Gloucestiershire airport the council (with Cheltenham Borough Council) is heavily subsidising flying for ‘the few’.

What shameful priorities we are seeing from Cheltenham and Gloucester councils.

Meanwhile there is some hope.

It is excellent to see some visionary ideas emerging such as a garden village on the Staverton airfield land, as proposed by Graham Bocking of Tewkesbury Bor0ugh Council.

Cheltenham and Gloucester councils should grasp this opportunity for some intelligent planning.

Selling this unviable airfield would save the councils many millions of pounds of future commitment while allowing investment of £300million in public services, and saving our museum for starters.

Ellie Stevenson

Friday July 28 2017

Planning disaster awaits 10 years after severe flooding

Jeremy Chamberlayne’s letter urges a halt to building on the flood plain, 10 Years on from the floods of 2007.

He will not be impressed with the plans in the Joint Core Strategy.

These JCS plans have been considering at least 2,000 houses starting from Twigworth right on the lip of the flood plain and next to where my house and several others badly flooded in 2007 along the A38.

In and around Twigworth we face the prospect of over 2,000 houses raised on ballast above the Severn Vale by two and a half feet.

Yes, that’s the scale of land-raising that the applicant’s feel is needed to deal with the environmental risk.

There is also a proposed raised road across this paddy-field landscape, to make the visual scar of this scheme even worse.

Hopefully Tewkesbury borough councillors will see sense and take the advice of the renowned hydrologist, Professor Ian Cluckie.

He strongly advised that this development should not go ahead when he briefed two separate inquiries on these proposals in July.

The choice of Twigworth for the development of extensive housing is unwise and does not reflect the precautionary principle that is commonly adopted in modern flood design.

Professor Cluckie has been a hydrologist all his career, advising the government on the stability of reservoirs and dams as well as storm and flood risk. Though now retired he frequently visits China to advise the Chinese government on flood risk.

It seems that 10 years on from the great floods, Tewkesbury Borough could be faced with another great planning disaster of their own making.

Hopefully they will see the wisdom of both a hydrology professor and local people who know how our river, brooks and flood risk fields behave.

Ken Watson
Twigworth Parish Council

Thursday May 11 2017

Letter highlights ’white elephant'

IAN Statham’s letter to your sister paper the Echo on 6 May, is disgracefully disingenuous.
Just because the airport must look to the local councils as a lender of first and last resort, ignores the fact that it must borrow money at all and it has to borrow because it is failing to self-fund.
The last time it borrowed ‘exceptional’ funds was to facilitate the runway extension fiasco, dressed up as a safety requirement. That was rubbish. It argued for a runway extension to accommodate the regional airliners to which Mr Statham refers, except that following the extension, passenger numbers have fallen year-on-year.
Thus, it destroys Mr Statham’s claim that the previous borrowing was “well invested” because it clearly wasn’t.
The council’s lending is not magicked from thin air, any council funds must, by definition, come from the local taxpayer and thereby, the taxpayer is subsidising the airport despite Mr Statham’s puffery to the contrary.
The bottom line is that while other uses would bring in a much-needed and exponential increase of income to the local councils, by simply closing the airport business, the councils would be better off to the taxpayers’ ultimate benefit.
The other businesses generating property rental income may be airport specific, but they are not Gloucester Airport specific and they could be run from any other airport facility without job loss.
All Mr Statham's letter does is to magnify the size of this white elephant.

Bob Newby

Friday May 12 2017

More passenger flights needed

I HAVE mixed feelings about the future use of Staverton as an airport.
Recent correspondence has highlighted in some detail the pros and cons.
As I see it, on a strict accounting basis it is probably not viable, but the benefits of employment and services to local industry are very difficult to evaluate.
Ideally, I like the thought of the airport being used much more for passenger traffic, as the sheer convenience is a huge plus against the hassle of flying from our main city airports. What a shame no small airline has come up with regular flights to European capitals.
If Staverton were to close it would be an ideal site, among other things, to house a new hospital serving Cheltenham and Gloucester.
We are all aware of the problems in the NHS.
Surely, in the long term, this would pay off with savings.
Unfortunately, so often we are not willing to commit.
Perhaps a local lottery would set the ball rolling.

Roger Champness

Saturday May 13 2017

Closure of airport could ease pollution and housing crises

Your letters page (Echo,May 9) is very thought provoking addressing as it does several connected issues.
It leads one to ask where the long-term development for the good of all is absent from public debate.
Councils that are starved of cash are pouring thousands of pounds into the unviable black hole of Gloucestershire Airport.
The ‘solution’ to one piece of asphelt being covered in traffic is go to the enormous expense of creating another swathe that will suffer the same fate.
On the other hand, people’s mental and physical health is suffering from the side effects of congestion.
It adds another burden to an already buckling NHS.
The collapsing housing system means many people are unable to afford to live near where they work, so they have to take to their cars.
That not only creates more congestion but adds significant casts to already stretched family budgets.
We urgently need well thought out, workable and sustainable policies that tackle our problems in an integrated manner.
The letters I referred to would make an effective starting point — we could withdraw funding for the airport and see it closed ~ and reduce air pollution and lessen the need of NHS services — use the land for affordable housing — and ease housing difficulties — create a light railway for those residents to reach their workplaces — and reduce congestion — and spend money improving public transport systems to reduce traffic flows on the A417.

If this group of letter writers decides to field a candidate in the forthcoming election they would certainly win my vote.

Heather Webster

Tuesday May 9 2017

Bargain basement airport is unviable

THANK you to Philip Drew (letters, April 27 April) for exposing the airport's accounts and demonstrating how unviable it is.
But he is wrong when he states that the airport is lucky that nobody checks its performance.
On July 24, 2015, the Echo reported the airport’s struggle to repay a previous loan of £3.1million.
The Cheltenham member for finance concluded at the time: "The airport is currently delivering an abysmal return on investment to Cheltenham and Gloucester councils.
We are told the latest loan is to help the airport fulfil its business plan. The business flights at the airport have declined from 1.8 per cent to 1.5 per cent of its overall flights in the past three years.
There is no current business growth as the airport claims — the only evidence is of decline.
The last accounts up to March 31, 2016, show that more than £2million in loans is outstanding.
Now we Council Tax payers are bailing out the "abysmal" airport more with a further £750,000 on top of the airport’s annual subsidy of £500,000 from business park rents.
These are grotesque sums of our money continually channelled to the airport, plus the windfall long-lease payment that it intercepts from the business parks, such as a £960,000 payment last year.
The scale of this absurdity defies belief, because as Philip Drew states, the airport lost close to £1million on - other airport activities in the 2015-4 6 financial year.
This means we subsidised each of the 80,000 flights by over £10.
Many of the flights are actually circuits by planes touching down each time.
And now With the £750,000 loan, council taxpayers are effectively supporting the airport by £20 for each of these 80,000 flights or movements. And don't forget, a typical small plane doing 1O circuits will be responsible for 20 of those movements, representing £400 in council support, or £200 if the loan is ever repaid.
Yes, the councils are spending our money on this activity rather than our services.
And if we let the airport build more hangars on the green belt (with of course public money), it will only get worse.
This bargain basement airport is unviable as its accounts clearly demonstrate. So bring on the alternatives — a garden village, central park, and light rail for Gloucester-Cheltenham.
Let's use the land for a real asset for the people of the area, and a genuine economic boost to our councils.
Following the latest loan the airport has stated "it is very much business as usual".
That is very bad news for us Council Tax payers.

Sarah Yates

Tuesday May 9 2017

Improved rail service could serve ’village'

YOUR lead article on the financial difficulties facing Gloucestershire Airport reinforces the importance of re-examining the potential for using the site for a 'garden village'.
As a resident of Stroud it concerns me that new housing is largely being developed in locations that cannot make use of public transport.
Your letters' page shows that readers clearly recognise the potential for improved services on the Cheltenham/Gloucester/Stroud railway line not just as a means to cutting traffic but also as a catalyst for better new housing developments.
Studies have shown that the line is ideal for Swift Rail — short frequent services, with modern stock so you can ’turn up and ride'.
Better services/would add value to the adjoining land, which could be tapped to pay for new stations.
These would serve a garden village on the council-owned airfield site, and potentially another one south of Gloucester near Quedgeley on a site the county council has already identified. Gloucestershire has relatively few railway stations but rail is having a renaissance elsewhere.
So instead of focusing development in places only served by cars, let's see some positive planning for strategic sites.
The government is giving its backing for 'garden settlements’ through its White Paper headed Fixing Our Broken Hoousing Market, so it would be tragic if Gloucestershire were to miss out.

Dr Nicholas Falk
The URBED Trust

Tuesday May 9 2017

The airport does not benefit the community

I READ over the weekend, with great concern and disbelief that Gloucester City Council, although allegedly not having enough land to fulfil its housing needs, has decided yet again to bail out the ever-failing airport instead of using this land for the need it is required for. We, on the sidelines on the other hand are stressfully having to deal with the threat of Gloucester housing needs being pushed on to the flood risked green belt around our lovely village of Twigworth.
Surely the Council Tax payers should have a say as to where and how their Council Tax is spent and I would very much doubt that these Council Tax payers would be willing to pay this tax to find it is being used towards a failing airport that they do not benefit from.
The airport does not serve the community, does not benefit the community and only serves to be a drain on the finances of the local councils that seem to turn a blind eye.
Wake up and smell the roses Gloucester City Council, this airport needs to bow down, stand aside and make way for the 21st Century and the increasing housing needs and requirements of Cloucester city and leave our precious flooded green belt well alone.

Councillor Helen Ford
Twigworth Parish Council

Tuesday May 9 2017

Small councils should not own an airport

AS a taxpayer, I was appalled to learn how much money is being squandered on Gloucestershire Airport.
Is this not simply a vanity project for Cheltenham Borough Council and Gloucester City Council?
I do not think that it is appropriate for small district councils to own an airport.
They should sell it (if they can) or close it and devote theland to a less inappropriate use.

MRJ Davies

Friday May 5 2017

The time has come to pull the plug on failing airport

IT’S about time our councillors took a leaf out of the referendum book and listened to the will of the people.

First it was Theodoulou and Co playing entrepreneur with taxpayers’ money and committing to a £500m incinerator without first asking the neighbours or the planners if it was wanted or even allowable and now we have Gloucester and Chetenham councils pouring money into a failed and failing business enterprise the airport.

I’ve been flagging up the airport’s shortcoming for years and thankfully, recently the calls for commonsense over this millstone are reaching siren levels.

The public sentiment is fast becoming public outrage.

Monday’s article tried to paint a rosy glow on a broken anachronism.

The airport has lost money for years and can’t repay its loans, but somehow it has the local authorities in its thrall and they keep pouring taxpayers’ pounds into what is demonstrably a dead duck.

It’s notable that the airport management turns to the councils for these loans, clearly indicating that the airport perceives the councils to be the soft target they are.

The airport would not dare approach a bank with such a flimsy business model as they know they’d be turned down without an eye-blink. It’s about time our councils stopped playing god with our money, there are far better good causes.

The airport can’t repay its existing loan, without increasing its borrowing by 50 per cent.

Monday’s article airbrushes the fact the airport is contracted to pay the councils a dividend on its profits. The only problem with that piece of blue sky is that it hasn’t made a profit in years.

At £1,000 a week, the rent for the vast site is almost a peppercorn and despite all the claptrap that surroun- ded the business case for extending the runway in 2009, the number of passengers has fallen annually since.

Now standing at a shade over 14,000 annually, I’d like our councils to state why it is seen to be good judgement to lend £2.25m to effectively subsidise each passenger to the tune of £160? The time has come to pull the plug on this failed enterprise.

Bob Newby