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Changes made to airport improvement plans after safety fears raised

Rgilwen Aberport Airport (Pic: PCC webcast)

CHANGES to recently-approved plans to update facilities at Ceredigion’s West Wales Airport has been backed, after the applicants said council-imposed conditions could affect air traffic safety.

West Wales Airport Ltd of Blaenannerch had sought permission for a replacement of the site’s Visual Control Tower and existing buildings with new tower and modern hangar facility (Hangar 3), including an extended taxiway and ancillary works, with hopes five major aerospace companies will soon be operating from it.

A statement of need, submitted with the original application, said: “West Wales Airport (WWA) at Blaenannerch has become well recognised for its unique capabilities in the Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) sector.

“This has created a high level of demand for its services from a wide variety of major UK manufacturers and operators. From April 2024, five major aerospace companies have expressed a wish to operate from the airport.

“These companies will be permanent, if not long-term residents on the site, as well as significant local employers.

“Currently, all the available ground-based accommodation that can access airside is now fully and permanently utilised. There is not even any storage capacity for the airport’s own fire service and airfield maintenance equipment.

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“To accommodate the imminent further growth in the customer base, there is an urgent need to construct additional ground-based facilities in the form of an additional hangar and a separate control tower.”

The statement said the existing buildings are no longer fit for purpose and a new control tower will function as the centre for radar data, communication systems and the control of all flight operations.

“Most importantly, it will enable significantly improved visibility across the airfield, allowing Air Traffic Control (ATC) to manage an expected increase in airport activity more efficiently,” the statement added.

The application was recently conditionally approved, but the applicants raised concerns at two of those conditions.

A “prior to demolition works” condition was not considered appropriate as the new facility would need to be up-and-running before the old one was demolished, and conditions to attract birds and bats, along with lighting control measures, were considered to be “not compatible with the operational safety requirements of an operational airport”.

The amendments were approved by county planners.

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