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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 15:38 GMT
Fears about airport expansion
Cessna 172
Only aircraft carrying up to eight people can be used at present
The owner of Welshpool airport has met local people to try to allay their fears that expanding the landing strip will increase noise.

At present only small eight-seater planes can fly in and out of Welshpool airport because of the shortness of the runway.

But a 190 metre extension of the runway will allow local businesses to fly in larger executive jets carrying up to 14 people.

Although the move could provide an economic boost to mid-Wales companies, people living near the airport are worried more air traffic will increase noise levels.

Some local residents have been worried that an expansion will result in more noise
Bob Jones, airport owner

More than 20 local people turned up to meet airport owner Bob Jones; Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Opik and county councillors to discuss prospective problems at a meeting on Monday.

Paul Harris who lives a mile from the airport in the village of Leighton, fears the airport expansion will lead to more planes travelling to and from Welshpool, which in turn will increase noise problems for locals.

'Flights reduced'

"I believe there should be a limit on the number of planes coming to the airport which would limit the noise," he said.

"I am also worried there are more beginners being trained as pilots at the airport which is also leading to an increase in noise levels."

"More money should be invested in improving the mid Wales road network rather than ploughing money into a private airfield."

But the airport's owner, Bob Jones, claims the number of flights have reduced during the last two years.

He said that the number of take-offs and landings at the airport had been cut back by more than half from 40,000 a year in 2002 to 19,000 for this year.

"Most noise is caused by training flights around the airport and we are moving away from this by providing more business flights," added Mr Jones.

Lembit Opik
The MP believes more flights could ensure more investment into Powys

"Our flights will climb out in the line of the runway before making any turns so they won't affect anyone living near to the airport."

Mr Jones aims to submit a planning application for the extension to Powys Council in the new year.

Montgomeryshire MP, Lembit Opik, who hold's a pilot's licence. said it was essential that mid Wales kept up with the rest of the world by having decent air facilities.

"We need to investigate the opportunities at the airport to offer better facilities for our local economy."

"The provision of upgraded airport facilities means that companies will be able to set up in Montgomeryshire and still have the convenience of easy travel.

"Similar schemes have made a big difference to inward investment in Ireland so a few flights a week could ensure a lot more investment in Powys."

Welshpool airport was set up as a green strip airport in 1986.

The injection of 200,000 of public money by the local authority in 1990 allowed the building of a control tower, hangars and a hard runway.

At that time the operator ran the facility as a flying school until Mr Jones took over the operation in April 2002.

Among the 15 planes and five helicopters based at the 24 acres site are Navaho and Cessna 150s and 172s

Although current aircraft can fly as far as Finland and the Baltic to Italy and the Mediterranean, an increase in runway length will allow flights to arrive from further afield.

It is believed that the expansion plan is supported by several mid Wales companies including Newtown-based Control Techniques, which makes computer parts and employs about 800 people.

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