GROUPS of pilots and residents battling over activities at a controversial airfield have both claimed decisive victories following a third public inquiry in two years.

Planning inspector Diane Lewis has accepted an appeal against Hambleton District Council’s enforcement action to limit the number of flights at Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk, but rejected an appeal over the authority’s enforcement notice to remove its jet fuel facility.

The airfield is viewed by supporters as a vital hub for key North Yorkshire industries, such as horse-racing, while its opponents claim noise emanating from the airfield wrecks their quality of life.

The inspector said the council’s attempt to end the bitter battle by restricting flight movements to 71 per week was flawed as there had not been an intensification of its use which amounted to a change in its character.

Ms Lewis said the total amount of aircraft movements at the airfield remained unclear, but some objectors’ anxieties may have been heightened after moving to the area during a period of low activity and concerns over a plan to build a hotel there.

She said disturbances from the airfield were not solely caused by take-offs and landings, but the use of the airspace through repetitive circuits, stunt flying and hot refueling.

The decision means there are no restrictions over the number of flights to and from the grass airstrip – the issue Action 4 Refusal, a group of residents from the neighbouring villages of Bagby and Thirkleby, have spent years battling to change.

Ms Lewis added that the jet fuel facility had an “unacceptable impact, principally through noise and disturbance” and must be removed within six months.

She also awarded Action 4 Refusal a partial award of costs after finding the council and the airfield's owner, Martin Scott, had behaved unreasonably in failing to discuss evidence on air movements before the opening of the inquiry.

Airfield manager Steve Hoyle said the ruling meant the airfield’s future had been secured, alongside a plan to replace its permanent jet fuel facility with a mobile one.

He said: “We are chuffed to bits, it has safeguarded nine jobs and work experience opportunities for pupils of local schools.

“Quite a few residents who have supported us have visited the airfield after hearing the decision and hopefully we can put it behind us, as it has cost far too much money.”

Action 4 Refusal spokesman Stephen Hornsby said its drive to reduce activity at the airfield would continue.

He said: “I can’t imagine Hambleton District Council will tolerate the fact there is still no control over the number of flights at the airfield.

“What is clear is there is going to be no jet fuel facility, that’s a clear victory for the residents.”

A spokesman for the council said it would not comment until it had examined the inspector’s decisions.