Council condemned for costly legal fight

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CAMPAIGNERS opposing an airfield development have accused a cash-starved council of a “legacy of financial waste” as it faces a second costly public inquiry in the space of just over a year.

The Action4Refusal campaign group has claimed Hambleton District Council would not be at in a protracted legal battle if proper planning controls had been enforced at Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk.

A spokesman for Action4Refusal, Stephen Hornsby, maintained the council is guilty of failing to monitor the airfield adequately over the last decade. The cost of the campaign group’s battle has topped £50,000, while the council’s own legal fees is in excess of £10,000.

Mr Hornsby, a solicitor who has a home in Great Thirkleby, has lodged an official complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman against the council.

He said: “The council has given us a legacy of financial waste. We are paying our rates for what should be a proper planning service while now having to cover the cost of legal fees as well.”

A public inquiry was held in March last year and found air traffic had exceeded legal targets for the past decade. The council has issued enforcement notices to halt development and the change of use of hangars. The airfield’s owner, Martin Scott, has launched an appeal against the 13 notices which will be heard at another public inquiry in May.

A council spokeswoman said the first complaints about aircraft movements were not received until 2007 when a planning application was submitted, and added: “We will act on complaints when we receive them, but the council obviously has limited resources and cannot monitor the airfield around the clock.”

But Mr Hornsby stressed complaints had been lodged with the council in 2005 about a runway re-development.

The council is expecting to have to cut its annual £9.6m revenue budget by as much as £3m over a four-year period.