The Planning History of Farnborough Airport

In 1991, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) declared Farnborough surplus to its requirements. The change concentrated military aviation research and development at Bedford and Boscombe Down, with test flying also taking place at Boscombe.

In conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Transport, the MoD drew up a strategy for disposal of its landholdings at Farnborough. A tranche of land was released to BAE Systems for the Farnborough Aerospace Centre. Part of the site was retained by DERA, now QinetiQ, for a variety of scientific research and development activities.

The former Factory site, now known as the Farnborough Business Park, is owned by Frasers Property UK Ltd. The Business Park will eventually provide two million square feet of office, retail and leisure space.

The Government wished to keep the operational areas of the Farnborough airfield in aviation use. In the late 1980s, it had realised that the lack of space in the South East for business aviation could have serious impacts on the regional economy. Farnborough was therefore earmarked as a site suitable as a business aviation airport.

A small civil operation commenced in 1989 and the MoD then drew up a development brief for a complete conversion of the site to business operations. In 1997, the MoD commenced the marketing of the site for this purpose as, by that time, the Local Plan incorporated policies for the future of the aerodrome had been drafted by Rushmoor Borough Council.

In February 1998, TAG Aviation was confirmed by the Government as the future operator of the site.

In October 2000, TAG Aviation was granted planning permission for the use of the site for business aviation, for works needed to bring the site up to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) standards and, in principle, for the new air traffic control tower, hangars and terminal building.

Rushmoor Borough Council, subject to a number of conditions, granted permission for the redevelopment of Farnborough Airport, into a civil licensed dedicated business airport. The conditions were the subject of a Town and Country Planning Act Section 106/299A agreement signed by both parties.

One of the stipulations of this agreement was the submission and agreement with Rushmoor Borough Council of preferred noise routes, and the enforcement of such routes. TAG Aviation implemented and published Noise Abatement Procedures that included preferred noise routes for aircraft arriving and departing the Airport, a complaints handling procedure, and a mechanism for addressing unauthorised failures to comply with the noise abatement procedures.

As a part of the planning permission, several environmental controls were also established at the Airport. These came into effect on 1st January 2003 when the CAA licence was granted.

One of the environmental requirements is the preparation of quarterly and annual monitoring reports. The annual report summarises environmental performance over the previous year. It sits alongside quarterly reports that monitor noise and air quality criteria and provides an opportunity to report more widely on the performance of the airport.

In February 2004, the Department for Transport designated a Public Safety Zone at Farnborough. In April 2004, the Council adopted Interim Planning Policy on the control of new development within the Public Safety Zone.

The 2005 planning application was seeking a variation of Condition 11 of the existing airport planning permission given in October 2000, to grant a redistribution of the permitted movement numbers, increasing the total number of movements allowable at weekends and Bank Holidays from 2,500 to 5,000.

TAG Aviation lodged an appeal against Rushmoor Borough Council’s decision to refuse permission in June 2006. The appeal was heard by the Planning Inspectorate at a public inquiry.

In March 2008 the Planning Inspectorate was directed by the Secretaries of State to grant planning permission.

In June 2009, the Airport submitted a planning application to increase the total number of business flight movements from 28,000 per year to a maximum of 50,000 per year, by 2019. The application also asked for an increase in the number of flight movements at weekends and on Bank Holidays – from 5,000 to 8,900 per year.

Rushmoor Borough Council refused permission for such an increase. The Airport appealed successfully and in February 2011, the Secretary of State granted permission, allowing the increase to go ahead.

By 2019 Farnborough Airport had grown beyond all recognition since being granted the original airfield lease in 1999 and a CAA licence in 2003.

In 2019 the shareholders sold TAG Farnborough Holdings Limited (including TAG Aviation, Aviator Hotel and The Swan pub) to a long-term infrastructure fund managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA).

Part of Macquarie Group (a top 10 Australian company), MIRA is the world’s largest infrastructure manager with more than 100 million people each day relying on the assets in which it invests. MIRA is an experienced manager of airport infrastructure managing investments in nine commercial airports across Europe and Australia, and 68 fixed-base operations across the US.