East Devon has a ‘secret airport’ very few people know about

Guess what, it never had planning permission! – Owl

Everyone knows about Exeter Airport, and Devon also has airfields at Branscombe and Dunkeswell Airport. But Devon has a ‘secret’ airport that very few people know about.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Farway Common Airfield was established 36 years ago and it was originally operated under the ’28 day rule’. The Airfield consists of two runways, but despite being an ‘airport’ for the last 36 years, technically the site doesn’t have planning permission.

However, for over 20 years, the airfield has operated significantly in excess of 28 days, and has always been available 365 days a year to both resident and visiting aircraft, had the details of the airfield published specifically to assist in the conduct of safe and considerate flying, and had aircraft owned and operated by the owner of Moorlands Farm, just outside Sidbury in East Devon.

The new owner of the land has now applied for a Certificate of lawful development for the 30 acres used as an aerodrome. This involves taking off, landing and manoeuvring of aeroplanes on the ground, and would allow operation 365 days per year – and regularising the use that currently takes place.

The Town & Country Planning Act 1990: Section 191 as amended by section 10 of the Planning & Compensation Act 1991 states that the local authority has a period of up to 10 years to take enforcement action against breaches of planning control. After the time limit has passed, the development becomes lawful, in terms of planning.

In the statement with the application, the applicant, James Hortop, states: “The airfield is used by both aircraft based on site and those visiting. This has occurred for more than 28 days per year continuously for over 20 years. The airfield has been available to aircraft 365 days per year to both based and visiting aircraft during this time.

“The hangar and outside parking areas are used by aircraft for both short and long term storage. These uses have been continuous since the establishment of the airfield 36 years ago.

“A flying school, of which employment and a commercial business depends is based at Farway Common Airfield. This use has been established for over 10 years. Slots for lessons are available 365 days per year as training has to coincide with different types of weather conditions and student/instructor availability.”

Farway Common Airfield

It adds: “James Hortop, the owner of Moorlands Farm/Farway Common Airfield also bases his aircraft in the hangar. His locally based business supports the UK emergency services and defence industry. He uses his aircraft for a regular commuting to offices on the Isle of Wight, Poole and Manchester; the aircraft is also used for travelling to business meetings around the UK and Europe. James’ business is dependent on his ability to quickly and effectively get to sites to meet urgent customer requirements.

“For example, during COVID, his business delivered 500 x COVID vaccination and test vehicles in just three months – his ability to move equipment, people and himself depended on the aircraft – restrictions in use at Farway would have a dramatic effect on his business.”

The airfield, located 9nm east of Exeter, closed in 2021 after the death of the previous owner. Farway Common Airfield has now reopened under the new owners.

Farway Common is a private airfield located in East Devon. The Airfield consists of two runways, orientation North/South & East/West of 550m each with a large parking area. “Our goal is to make Farway a haven for those who are passionate about flying,” a statement on their website says.

Farway Common now operates under a Letter of Agreement with Border Force which allows departures and arrivals to countries outside of the UK. This is provided that PPR has been obtained and the appropriate GAR and flight plan have been lodged.

The statement concludes: “The land has had an established change of use to that of an Aerodrom available for use throughout the year. The use of a building as a hangar for the parking of aircraft and the use of land for the parking of aircraft has been established for more than ten years.

“Historically the land was used as an airfield under planning permitted development rights. The use of the land as an airfield continuosly over the last 20 years for in excess of 28 days shows that a change of use has occurred and that it has now has a legal, established, use as an Airfield. The documentary evidence demonstrates that the change in use has occurred and is indeed lawful.”

East Devon District Council will determine the fate of the Certificate of lawful development at a later date.

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