Cranfield Airport’s Masterplan

Cranfield Airport is planning to develop a state-of-the-art airport for private jets. This will put it in competition with other private jet airports in the south-east.

This region has already seen recent expansions. For example, last year London Luton opened a third private terminal.

Britain’s busiest airport for private flights is expecting a 6% increase in flights in 2017. This is around 30,000 flights.

A spokesperson for London Luton Airport said:

“London Luton Airport (LLA) is the busiest hub for private aviation in the UK, the third busiest in Europe and seventh in the world.

“The popularity of LLA shows no sign of decreasing and Cranfield will complement the UK’s thriving General Aviation sector.”

Biggin Hill and Southend are also expanding

According to Victor, a private jet charter provider, Luton is over twice as popular as the second busiest, London Biggin Hill.

Biggin Hill is also expanding with a £15 million project. This will include office space, hangar and a business aircraft parking facility. There will also be a 50-bed four-star hotel.

Southend Airport is also looking to attract business flights. Its new Jet Centre is looking to handle 5,000 private flights per year by 2022. It will be a 24/7/364 offering.

Cranfield’s planned expansion is for a business terminal, a hotel and other upgrades. The Masterplan is a revision of an existing Air Park proposal.

Cranfield Airport Masterplan - used with permission

Why is this needed?

Cranfield University is the only university in Europe to own and operate its own airport. Research and education remains an important aspect of the operations of the Airport. The University says this isn’t enough to ensure the long-term viability of the Airport.

A spokesperson for Cranfield University said:

“The Airport has gone from attracting 103,000 take-offs or landings in the early 2000’s to just 22,000 today(1)(2). This is not sustainable and will not cover the cost of running the Airport or much-needed additional investment.

“The Air Park is expected to take the flights up to 46,000 by 2027, still well below the levels of the early 2000’s.”

The expansion would see the airport change its name to London Cranfield

“In business aviation, it is important to stress the specific identity of the airport and its proximity to London. There are many examples of this such as London Biggin Hill/London Oxford.”

Cranfield Airport Masterplan - used with permission

Previous planning application

In 2002, Central Bedfordshire Council approved an outline planning application (LPA Ref. 12/2001/0367) to permit the development of a small-scale Air Park facility at the Airport. This has been implemented, but the new Air Park proposals would supersede it.

If approved, completion of the mixed-use facility will be around 2024 and it will be in two phases.

The maps used in the Airport’s presentation and application to Central Bedfordshire Council do not have the Willow Green development (including the new school(3).

Phase 1 will be a full planning application and Phase 2 will be an outline planning application.

Both applications will be supported by a full ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ (EIA) and submitted by the end of November 2017.

The Air Park will have maintenance and operational facilities (five new hangars), a new terminal, and commercial office spaces.

There will also be a 4* or 5* 300-bed hotel.

“One of the major attractions of Cranfield Airport is that passengers can land during the daytime giving them ample time to travel to London for morning meetings – thereby avoiding the need to land at night.”

Only emergencies and extenuating circumstances would be handled out of hours.

Of course it’s noisy, it’s an airport

Social media posts show that the increase in noise is worrying some Cranfield residents. Between 2001 and 2011 the village grew by 10%. In the six years since the last census there have been three major housing developments.

These newcomers to the area have only experienced the current air traffic levels. The extra noise will also affect students in lectures, and in their accommodation.

Noise comparisons

  • The standard noise for a vacuum cleaner is 70dB
  • A propellor plane flying over at 1000ft is twice as loud as a vacuum cleaner
  • The maximum permitted takeoff noise at Biggin Hill is four times as loud as a vacuum cleaner

Airport spokesperson said:

“Whilst residents and students will be aware of the noise, it is anticipated that the noise will be within acceptable limits.”

There are health consequences of elevated sound levels. Elevated noise can cause hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and decreased school performance.

“We are modelling likely noise levels either side of the runway but these are not anticipated to be problematic given historic uses and the nature of an operational Airport.”

This modelling has been developed using similar methods to those that were used to assess the development of TAG Farnborough and London Biggin Hill Airports. These airports cater to similar sized aircraft types and flight patterns.

This allows for the noise profile for Cranfield to be developed and compared to other similar developments.

Farnborough Airport

In 2009, Farnborough Airport submitted a planning application to increase the number of business flight movements. This was to allow a maximum of 50,000 a year. The local council, Rushmoor Borough Council, refused permission. The airport owners appealed and in 2011, the government allowed the increase to go ahead.

Residents in the area say the value of their homes have decreased due to noise and other physical factors.

In 2015, The Lands Tribunal ruled that residents with property values had decreased due to the expansion could pursue a compensation claim against the airports operators.

Between July and September 2017, there were 65 noise complaints to the council.

What models of jets will use London Cranfield?

The growth will see the same types of jets that currently use the Airport today. Business jets are already using the airport. This amounts to around 750 flights per year. Airport spokesperson said:

“These are all small/medium sized business jet engined aircraft with limited seating configurations accommodating just a few passengers.”

Firework parties may be at risk from a larger Cranfield Airport

Will the increased air traffic have any effect on local fireworks?

Fireworks near an airport can cause problems for pilots taking off or landing. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be informed of any organised firework events within 3 miles of an airport.

Domestic fireworks could also be dangerous to flights. A CAA spokesperson said:

“Any local resident holding fireworks display should also inform the airport directly.”

Unless an airport is officially closed during the event, it would remain open for emergency landings. This might mean the interruption, or even the last minute cancellation, of approved events.

London Cranfield could, of course, refuse to give clearance to any flight not requesting an emergency landing.

Benefits to Cranfield

The Masterplan says that the local economy will see a range of new jobs. These will be administrative, clerical, professional, construction and in engineering.

Local businesses will also be able to sell supporting services and products to the facility.

London Cranfield is expecting to add up to 750 jobs and £60-80m added to the value of the local economy.

Further consultations

Cranfield University will be hosting more presentations on 22-23 November 2017.

This will be an opportunity for residents to find out more before the application is submitted to Central Bedfordshire Council.

(1) Air traffic figures are from Cranfield Airport. They are not verified.
(2) Cranfield Airport did not respond when asked bout the types of aircraft flying in the early 2000s
(3) Cranfield Airport did not respond when asked when up-to-date maps would be used