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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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'New Carlisle airport plans should be scrapped' - farmer

The Irthington farmer who scuppered plans to redevelop Carlisle Airport says the latest proposals should have been turned down too.

Gordon Brown photo
Gordon Brown

City councillors have deferred a decision on Stobart’s planning application for a 394,000sq ft freight distribution centre and to resurface the runway.

They will hold further consultations before the plans come back before councillors, probably on August 3.

But Gordon Brown, the farmer whose application for judicial review led the Court of Appeal to quash a previous airport consent, argues that the latest scheme should also have been thrown out.

It was originally scheduled to go before the development control committee a year ago but was delayed then, at Stobart’s request, so the company could challenge findings from the council’s aviation consultants.

These had led planning officers to recommend refusal of the £25m scheme.

Mr Brown told the News & Star: “Councillors should have refused it [yesterday].

“Applications have to be decided on the basis of material planning considerations and on that basis it should have been refused, as stated in the planning officers’ report of July 2011.”

Council leader Joe Hendry expressed regret that the application had been delayed again.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I am genuinely disappointed as I understand how much these plans for Carlisle Airport mean to the community and businesses.

“I want to reassure people that, if at all possible, a speedy conclusion will be sought at the next meeting.”

Stobart chief executive Andrew Tinkler is also frustrated by the delay.

He has repeated a warning that 650 Cumbrian jobs will go if the plans are turned down.

He said: “I understand the position the council is in. I know what they’re up against.

“I am really concerned that a legal challenge from one individual could put 650 people out of a job.”

Mr Brown’s challenge to the 2009 airport consent landed the council with a legal £185,000 legal bill then a further bill for £76,000 after the district auditor investigated alleged “misuse of public funds”.

She rejected the complaint but criticised the council’s handling of the planning application saying that, in future, reports to the development control committee should have clear recommendations.

Mr Brown’s solicitors fired a warning shot across the council’s bows this week.

The letter from Dickinson Dees said the report for Friday’s meeting had no clear recommendation.

It said: “Given the background to this matter, and the complexity of the issues arising, we are sure that you will agree it is essential for there to be transparency.

“You will understand that the committee papers as published do not contain the necessary information.”

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