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Daedalus developer warns of law suit for plan ban

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

FAREHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL and a developer who wants to build specialised homes on Solent Airport Daedalus are at loggerheads over a survey required by the planning authority, Fareham Borough Council.

Peter Day – the director of Southampton-based Hangar Homes Limited – is being required as part of the planning application process to find out if there are any badger setts in the western part of the airfield where he proposes to build nine live/work ‘hangar’ homes.

However, the council in its role as owner of the airport is refusing access for the survey to be carried out either on the ground or by using a drone.

Emails exchanged but no agreement

The Globe has seen an exchange of emails between Mr Day and the Leader of Fareham Borough Council Councillor Seán Woodward.

In an email dated April 27, Mr Day wrote that he had, “no option but to start legal proceedings against [Fareham Borough Council] for unlawful obstruction to my lawful planning application.” (underlining as in original).

Mr Woodward responded on April 30: “In its capacity as the landowner, Fareham Borough Council has been clear that it will not sell this site to you for this scheme, or any indeed any scheme for housing at the site.  Furthermore, as a landowner, the Council is not under any legal obligation to let you or your agents go onto its land to undertake survey work in connection with a planning application.”

Later the developer offered an alternative approach: “in order not to waste any further time on pursuing the legal route, would you please consider waiving the badger survey for now, as this cannot be done, but instead put forward planning conditions should it succeed?”

However, he was told by a council planning officer that while the planning application could continue without the badger survey, its absence was likely to be a reason for the planning authority to refuse permission for the development.

Council’s dual role

It is more than four years since Gosport Borough Council considered a planning application from Mr Day who at that time proposed building five – later six – hangar homes in an area to the west of the airport control tower, each home having a hangar for a light aircraft plus offices and workshops on the ground floor, and residential accommodation above.

Throughout this time, Fareham Borough Council – as airport owner – has resolutely refused to agree to the homes being built.

However, the landowner’s views need not be taken into account in the planning approval process – the planning officer’s report to a meeting of Gosport Borough Council’s Regulatory Board on October 16, 2019 stated: “Whilst it is clear that the land owner does not support the proposals, this in its own right is not a material planning consideration and could not be a reason for refusal.”

Therefore, at one point, Mr Woodward stated: “The planning process is not something in which I can intervene or assist you with.”

Switching from Gosport to Fareham

Having made four attempts to obtain planning permission from Gosport Borough Council– resulting in one deferral, one success and two failures – Mr Day switched his attention to the yet to be developed west side of the airfield where Fareham Borough Council is planning to build the Swordfish Business Park.

His arguments for the nine live/work homes – in what he calls Solent Aeropark – are that they would form an innovative micro-community of aviation-related businesses, the council would not have to fund the construction of the Swordfish Business Park, and would contribute revenue to both the council and the airport.

In addition, he points to Fareham Borough Council’s Revised Local Plan 2037 which states in section 6.4.c that one of the aims is: “Being flexible to accommodate needs not anticipated in the plan, allowing for new and flexible working practices (such as live-work accommodation), and to enable a rapid response to changes in economic circumstances.”

Though this statement applies borough-wide rather than specifically to Solent Daedalus Airport, and the local plan has not yet been formally approved.

Safety and security concerns

One of the sticking points between the two parties relates to safety and security at Daedalus.

Mr Day cites independent expert assessments which conclude his proposals would comply with aerodrome regulatory requirements and should not adversely affect the operation of the airport.

However, Mr Woodward wrote to Mr Day stating: “the Council as airport operator has concerns about the safety and security risks that people living within the airport boundary present.

“The Council does not believe that anything can mitigate these risks sufficiently and I cannot support your proposal on this basis as long as there is any risk that residents, children, dogs, or visitors wanted and unwanted would be able to access the active airfield, or that foreign objects could be deposited near the airport runway or taxiways.”

The stand-off looks set to continue – Fareham Borough Council in its role of airport owner is not giving ground while the developer’s persistence in pursuit of his goal has continued for more than four years and shows no sign of waning.

Image (top): Impression of Solent Aeropark. Hanagr Homes Ltd., reproduced with permission.

Afterward this report was published, Mr Day wrote to the Globe stating:
“These mixed-use hangars are 60% commercial and 40% residential use by floor area, so ‘hangar homes’ or even ‘live/work hangars’ are not appropriate descriptions as they infer more residential than commercial use, which is certainly not the case.
“As long as Sean Woodward sees this development as a residential-led scheme, then he will rightly object to it, but given that these mixed-use hangars provide a 50% higher employment density than existing commercial units on the airfield, as shown in the attached Employment Report, then he should allow this scheme if planning consent is granted, which is probably the reason he does not want that to happen,
“As for the request to waive the ground survey, this was made to Maral Miri of the HCC Ecology Team, and not to FBC, for which I am still awaiting a response since I sent her the Google Earth image, which clearly shows that the site is mowed, which would eliminate any badger setts, except on the boundary or in the south-west corner, which are within the Amenity Space, and therefore can be preserved.”