FLYING enthusiasts are locked in dispute with residents over plans to extend the use of a local airstrip.
Lancs Aero Club has submitted an application to Wigan Council to allow flying on any day of the year rather than the 28 days a year the agreement it currently operates under permits.
Residents from the Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum (Lendf) are opposing the application on the grounds of noise pollution, possible safety risks and the landing strip being near the Highfield Moss site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
However, the aero club has now refuted many of the group’s claims and says its activities will cause very little hassle to those living nearby.
Lendf chair Ed Thwaite said: “We will be objecting as it is in the green belt at the side of an SSSI and it is not an appropriate development for that land.
“There’s already been one crash there and if the plane had caught fire it would have burnt the SSSI out. That also brings a clear danger to the public as there’s a footpath running adjacent to the site.
“It’s a free-flying area and we have already had problems with planes coming in to land from all sorts of directions.”
The club, based at Barton Aerodrome in Salford, has responded and also sought to play down local fears the planning application could be the start of major work to upgrade the Kenyon Hall Farm strip.
Cliff Mort, chairman of Lancs Aero Club, said: “We want to be able to use it any day but it’s not going to be used every day because the weather is against it and a lot of our members are working during the week.
“Flying is also classified as a sport by Sport England which means it is allowable in the green belt.
“Following two noise surveys we have established that we make less noise than the local traffic. The area round Lowton is very busy with light aircraft using the low-level corridor between Manchester and Liverpool airports.
“There is no doubt that many of the aircraft seen by residents are passing and not using the club’s farm strip.
“Once we’ve got the strip running I can’t see us doing anything else to the facility. In response to residents’ concerns I have categorically stated there will be no petrol on site.”
The club also wants to create a grass car park for several vehicles at the site and widen the entrance to the airstrip located off Winwick Lane.
The decision on the latest application has been delegated to council officers. Residents have until February 19 to submit commentsto the local authority by emailing email@example.com