Airport brings discord to Aldeburgh Festival

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The Independent Online
A PLAN to turn a disused airbase into a commercial airport which operates up to 80 flights a day could ruin the internationally renowned Aldeburgh Festival, residents of a Suffolk village claimed yesterday.

The two-and-a-half week festival attracts more than 70,000 visitors every year as well as performers from all over the world who come to record their work. Organisers are concerned that the noise of the planes will drown out the music.

The site for Anglia International Airpark (AIA), which is only three miles from Aldeburgh, was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1969 and the villagers are also concerned that such a major development will spoil the area.

Jonathan Reekie, chief executive of Aldeburgh Productions, said that 40 per cent of the audience for the festival came from outside the region and he was concerned that the airport might have a detrimental effect on the area.

"We are also concerned about recording - when the Americans [who left in 1993] were here they agreed not to fly near us on days when we were recording but you cannot expect a commercial airport to cancel scheduled flights for us," he said.

On recording days no cars are allowed to drive up to the concert hall at Snape Maltings and passers-by are requested to keep silent.

"The developers have said that the airport will provide jobs in the area but one cannot help thinking that it will lead to the destruction of existing jobs in tourism - people will not want to come here for a peaceful holiday when there are planes flying over all the time," he added.

"We will be studying the proposals very carefully and if necessary we will object strongly."

Nick Bushill, chairman of the Alde and Ore Association, said the airport might bring advantages, but he was concerned about aircraft noise and increased traffic on minor roads.

Bentwaters Investments, which bought the site from the Ministry of Defence last year, said yesterday that it would be submitting planning permission today and declined to comment in advance.

But a brochure produced by the company said it planned to operate as a business airport and would cater for aircraft maintenance, business, private and training flights. "AIA plans to attract within five years over 30,000 flights per year ... serving 100,000 yearly passengers."

However, Gregory Luton, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, said government guidelines stipulated that there should be no major development in an Area of Natural Beauty unless there was a proven national need for it and there was no suitable alternative site. "The previous airbase was there because there was a war on but you would not choose to put an airfield there now because it is an Area of Natural Beauty," he said.

"We do not want to be seen as Nimbys [Not In My Back Yard] but there is no point in having these designations of they can be breached at any opportunity. The area does not have a suitable infrastructure ... unlike Ipswich which until recently had a perfectly good sub-regional airport."