Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Park airfield sale given go-ahead

Llanbedr airfield
The site at Llanbedr has been used as an airfield since World War II

The sale of an airfield in the Snowdonia National Park has been approved by the assembly government.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said after careful "environmental and legal" considerations the sale to Kemble Air Services could go ahead.

Kemble director David Young said he was "very happy", but was not "popping the champagne corks yet", as the planning process still lay ahead.

Conservationists have been battling to stop the development.

Ieuan Wyn Jones said he was satisfied the disposal of Llanbedr airfield to Kemble would "maximise the economic benefits".

Mr Jones said he believed the new airfield would bring jobs to the area.

"Llanbedr airfield lies within the Snowdonia national park and has until very recently been a busy military facility," he said.

It would be a tragedy if there were any more big delays
David Young, Kemble Air Services

"I am content that this new facility fully complies with our duty to have due regard for the purposes for which the National Park was designated, and that this less intensive use will not have an adverse effect on the conservation of the area."

The sale had been delayed because the Snowdonia Society claimed the assembly government broke the law by arranging a 125 year lease.

Snowdonia Society director Alun Pugh said as a result of the society's actions the assembly government "accepts that their original decision making process was flawed".

He said there were environmental and legal issues which had yet to be resolved.

"It is our view that these matters could best be resolved in an open and transparent way by making a formal application for planning permission for their intended future uses," he added.

Mr Pugh said the decision to open Britain's newest civilian airfield in Snowdonia, "doesn't sit well with its legal obligations to protect the special qualities of the area, including its natural beauty and wildlife" .

Flying return

The Snowdonia National Park Authority said it welcomed the decision by the assembly as it had been made with "regard to the National Park purposes".

A spokeswoman added that it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the development until it was clear what Kemble Air Services' planned at the site.

Mr Young said the company was "very happy" that the assembly government had decided to agree the 125-year lease.

"We hope that matters proceed smoothly now," he said.

"Any further delays would lead to further degradation of the buildings on the site.

"It would be a tragedy if there were any more big delays."

Mr Young said there was support from the local community, and his company was appreciative of that.

He said the company's planning officer would be visiting the airfield in the first week of January to finalise the planning application to the Snowdonia Park Authority.

If everything proceeded quickly, he hoped that some operations and flying would return to Llanbedr in the spring or summer of 2009, he added.

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