The Campaign Against Filton Commercial Airport

CAFCA -  The Campaign Against Filton Commercial Airport

A Brief History

The campaign against commercial aircraft operations, generally known by its initials CAFCA, was originally launched in 1991 when Filton Airfield was included on a list of possible sites to provide additional runway capacity for the south east of England. However it was quickly dropped from that list, but the idea had been embraced by British Aerospace (BAe) who owned the runway which had existed historically to serve the Filton manufacturing plant.

In February 1993 BAe announced that it intended to start commercial flights from Filton, including 20 freight flights per night, within months and claimed that it had the necessary permission to do so. (Previously any night flying at Filton had been negligible). Their assertion was successfully challenged legally by Northavon District Council (the predecessor of South Gloucestershire Council as planning authority). BAe were forced to apply for planning permission which they did in the autumn of 1993, with their managing director claiming that the plans were vital to support the newly formed (but subsequently short lived) BAe Aviation Services division.

CAFCA was reformed immediately BAe’s announcement was made and membership quickly grew to around 13,000 local people by the start of the public inquiry into the planning application which began in October 1994. An alliance was formed with a group of local parish and town councils (including Stoke Gifford) around the airfield to oppose the plans, which enabled the appointment of expert witnesses, solicitors and a barrister who gave evidence against BAe at the inquiry along with Northavon District Council, the local MP Michael Stern, and individual local residents.

The inquiry inspector Jean Brushfield ruled against BAe (report reference APP/G0120/A/94/238017) who then unsuccessfully took an appeal to the High Court. The outcome of the campaign was a stunning victory for local residents against BAe who at no stage appeared willing to back down or modify their plans. It was also a victory for common sense which said that such a 24/7 operation would be environmentally outrageous in such a high density residential area.

Subsequently the government has backed Bristol International as the growth airport for this region, and Filton has remained a relatively lightly used daytime airfield supporting the successful BAe Airbus design and wing manufacturing work. In the mid 1990’s Royal Mail were given permission to build a regional sorting depot at the edge of the airfield which again led to fears of night mail flights. These fears were heightened in 2006 when mail aircraft were temporarily allowed to use Filton during the overnight resurfacing of the runway at Bristol International but these operations reverted back in May 2007. There are now plans to build over 2000 new homes on a large part of the airfield site known as Northfield which has been recently sold by BAe.

BAe were required to set up an airfield consultative group following the public inquiry. This still meets three times a year, composed mainly of councillors, and has not been accessible to local residents, most of whom are unaware of its existence. However minutes of the meetings should now be posted on the airfield web site under the heading FACG, and any complaints about flying can be made via the web site or to South Gloucestershire Council Environmental Services.

CAFCA was formed specifically to oppose commercial operations at Filton, and at no time opposed traditional usage of the airfield associated with manufacturing. Today some of the original organisers still keep a watching brief on any new developments.

July 2007