A COUNCIL which lost planning control of a controversial airfield has admitted its latest attempt to restrict flight numbers has nosedived.

Hambleton District Council said following an appeal against its enforcement action to limit flight movements at Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk, to 3,700 annually, a Government planning inspector had ruled the grass airstrip could be used at least 7,228 times a year without breaching planning control.

In a report to the authority’s planning committee, corporate services director Martyn Richards said the third public inquiry into the airfield’s use in as many years had concluded aircraft movements at the airfield could see 567 jet helicopter take-offs and landings annually.

Some residents in the nearby villages of Thirkleby and Bagby claim noise emanating from the airfield, and in particular helicopter flights, wrecks their quality of life and have campaigned for years for the authority to stop it being used by commercial pilots.

The airfield, which is regularly used by top jockeys and power line repair firms, welcomed the use of a helicopter by Foreign Secretary William Hague last week as he visited Catterick.

Two years ago the council was ordered by the local government ombudsman to issue a public apology to residents after its “extreme and most serious failure” to restrict flight numbers to 80-a-week.

In a bid to regain planning control over the airfield, the council launched enforcement action over flight numbers and an unauthorised fixed jet fuel facility, but the former action failed and the latter will be challenged by the airfield’s owner, Martin Scott, in the High Court later this month.

Airfield manager Steve Hoyle said if the appeal was unsuccessful the jet fuel tank would be put on wheels, which would not be subject to planning restrictions.

Mr Richards said until the High Court action had been concluded, the council had insufficient information on which to base a new move to regain planning control of the airfield.

Stephen Hornsby, of Action4Refusal, which represents residents in Bagby and Thirkleby, said: “Whatever happens, we hope the council regains control – it has yet to demonstrate that it has.

“The council seems to think this is all going to go away if he [Martin Scott] doesn’t get his jet fuel facility, but the council has been proved to be consistently wrong.”