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A cabinet decision to mix aviation and housing on North Weald Airfield will not be challenged by committee
The future of aviation at an historic airfield looks to have been secured after a challenge to a decision to limit development of the site was rejected.
Epping Forest District Council’s cabinet recently decided to keep using taxpayers’ money to subsidise the airfield, which was used as a base during the Battle of Britain.
But a meeting was callled to scrutinise the move after some councillors expressed concerns that the decision, which would also see 1,000 homes built on the site, was undemocratic as it would deny people across the district a say.
But more than 100 residents flocked to the meeting on Tuesday to insist aviation must remain, with some waving placards with the words ‘Save Our Airfield’ beforehand.
Cllr Sylvia Watson, who proposed the call-in, heavily criticised the cabinet’s decision.
She said: “The Local Plan public consultation is supposed to allow all residents to give their views on future planning and land allocations throughout the district.
"They have not been afforded that opportunity and they won't be if only option three is included in the preferred options.
"The option of modest development without aviation has not been explored.
“Aviation at North Weald Airfield costs this council half a million pounds per year. The income generated from the Saturday market should not necessarily be being used to subsidise aviation.
“We have a duty to give to give others a chance of a better future with homes and jobs.
“Removing this drain on resources might just ensure that the heritage site survives.”
But this argument was rejected by council leader Chris Whitbread, who said the people of North Weald supported the cabinet decision, with the airfield taking its ‘fair share’ of development.
The other two options rejected by cabinet were the expansion of aviation, or ending flights at the site in favour of greater development.
Speaking on behalf of the majority of residents, North Weald Parish Councillor Terry Blanks said: “The council has never done what they said they were going to do when they originally got the site, but we came out to support the cabinet decision.”
Another protestor, who did not give her name, said she feared development could mean the beginning of the end of aviation on the site.
She said: “Whilst we are really pleased, we don’t want any development at all.
“North Weald is a site of historical importance and it should stay that way.”
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee decided to support the cabinet decision, rather than ask leading councillors to reconsider their position.
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