Warning over Norwich airport engine testing facility

Peter WalshCouncillors have been warned to expect an 'environmental disaster of huge proportions' if they give the green light to controversial plans to relocate an engine testing facility.Peter Walsh

Councillors have been warned to expect an 'environmental disaster of huge proportions' if they give the green light to controversial plans to relocate an engine testing facility.

Permission is being sought to move the existing engine testing facility at the airport from its approved location on the eastern apron of the airport, near to Hellesdon to a new location in the north eastern corner of the site close to Spixworth.

As well as moving the testing facility, used predominantly by KLM UK Engineering which employs up to 450 people, the airport also wants the green light to carry out up to 240 high pressure tests a year an increase of more than three times the current amount.

The application, which has been recommended for approval and will be determined by Norwich City Council's planning committee tomorrowalso includes work to increase an earth and concrete bund around the proposed test area from the existing 4.5metres to 6 metres has raised a number of noise concerns with nearby families.

There is also concern that the testing currently takes place in an unauthorised area which is the subject to a breach of condition notice served by the city council and requires the airport to cease testing engines anywhere other than the approved site by June 22.

Ray Britt has suffered noise problems from the airport for years, despite living a number of miles away in Lingwood, and said it would be a disaster if the application was given the go-ahead tomorrow.

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Mr Britt, a parish councillor for Lingwood and Burlingham, said people living within a 10 mile radius of the airport could be condemned noise nuisance on a daily basis if the applicant was allowed to test two hours per day up to 30 days of the month.

He said: 'I'm just so incensed by this - it's ridiculous. Once it's passed that's it forever. It's going to be an environmental disaster of huge proportions. It's just going to be awful.

'This is not a small problem. It's not just a problem for people living in Spixworth, but for thousands of people all over the area. It's a huge problem and they need to pause, not stop completely, just stop and consider the impact on the people of Norfolk.'

Bryan Edwards, who used to work at the airport as an environmental co-ordinator in the late 1990s, said he 'fully supported' Norwich Airport and wanted to see it succeed and expand, but felt they could have handled the engine testing issue better.

Mr Edwards, who lives in Spixworth, said as the proposed application, close to the former fire training site, was on 'contaminated land' it would need to be cleared and a proper, purpose-built engine testing pen installed and 'not just throwing soil around it'.

Earlier this month the Evening News reported how Gill Cook, 56, who owns Quaker Farm in Quaker Lane, Spixworth, and the holiday cottages on the farm said the application would be a 'complete blight' on their lives.

Independent environmental consultants MAS instructed by Mrs Cook to assess the noise impact have written to Norwich City Council and Broadland to express 'serious concern' about the 'serious disruption' the 'unacceptable' proposal would cause.

An airport spokeswoman said they were working with consultants to design the best solution 'which will provide both screening and noise reduction to ensure the airport and KLM continue to strive to be good neighbours to the community'.

Are you fighting a controversial planning application? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or emailpeter.walsh@archant.co.uk