Controversial airfield agrees to act as Tour de France helicopter base (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Bagby airfield near Thirsk agrees to act as Tour de France helicopter base
AN airfield which is battling for its future has been approached to serve as a helicopter base during the Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire next year.
The management of Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk, have been asked by a firm working for race organisers ASO if they can accommodate and act as a refueling point for some of the eight helicopters which will hover over the race at any one time.
The grass airfield, which in May will be the subject of a third public inquiry in two years over its use, has been the focus of a concerted six-year campaign by some residents of the surrounding villages over noise and developments.
If a planning inspector upholds Hambleton District Council’s enforcement actions over the airfield’s helicopter fuel facility and number of flights, the airfield’s operators say they would use a jet fuel trailer for refuelling for next July's race.
The airfield has been described by race organisers as being in a good location to aid aerial television coverage of the opening two stages of the race, which will include the Yorkshire Dales, Ripon Harrogate and York.
It is understood the helicopters which will be used to beam live images of the race to an estimated TV audience of 3.5bn people, will need to refuel after being in the air for three hours.
Airfield manager Steve Hoyle said there was nowhere between Breighton, near Selby and Durham Tees Valley Airport where helicopters could refuel and it would be difficult for the Tour de France helicopters to use Leeds-Bradford International Airport.
He said he had agreed in principle to the airfield being used for about four days, that noise would be kept to a minimum and there would be no early morning or late-night flights.
He said: “This is a fantastic endorsement of what is a strategically vital airfield for several services such as Network Rail and the National Grid, who need to be able to fly alongside pylons or over lengthy stretches of track to assess damage.”
When the Tour’s route was revealed last month, Neville Huxtable, the leader of Hambleton District Council said he was "bitterly disappointed the world's greatest cycling race would not pass through Hambleton".
Councillors yesterday declined to comment about the plan ahead of the public inquiry.
Action 4 Refusal campaigner Stephen Hornsby said he did not believe Bagby would be a suitable base for the race’s helicopters and the Tour de France would be used as propaganda for the airfield.