Aviation at Retford (Gamston) Airport

Originally established in 1942 as an RAF base, Retford airport supports a wide range of aviation activity including aircraft charter and air taxi services, pilot training, air ambulance and medical flights, ‘special mission’ aircraft operations, aircraft refuelling and private flying.

About the proposals

The proposed ‘change of use’ planning application will decimate aviation at the airport in exchange for a small amount of motor vehicle testing. This could lead to the loss of advanced technology and engineering businesses and up to 100 skilled jobs. Changes to runway availability could also result in more aircraft noise in the vicinity of Elkesley village.

Business at Retford (Gamston) Airport

We believe that airport has a bright future in providing highly specialised aviation services to the local and national economy.

Aviation at Retford (Gamston) Airport

The airfield first came into use in December 1942 as part of the Royal Air Force Training Command, it was withdrawn from military service in 1957 and subsequently modernised as a general and business aviation airport from 1993. Many historical features of the site remain, including a World War Two era firing range and several other buildings that have been adapted for industrial, commercial and residential use.  Two of the original three runways remain available, one of which is still in daily use. 

Five thriving flying schools are now based at the site, continuing a long tradition of flying training to this day, each flying school provides training to standards required by the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The airfield is equipped with a range of modern facilities that are not routinely available at similarly sized airports including pilot controlled lighting and a co-located navigation aids. The runways at Retford-Gamston are also long enough to accommodate light jet aircraft for business, charter operations and medical evacuation flights in addition to private flying and helicopter operations.

General and Business aviation contributes between £2 and 3 billion to the UK economy and relies upon a strategic network of airfields, this has recently been recognised in the latest iteration of UK planning policy. Many hundreds of aircraft from around the UK and the rest of Europe regularly visit the airport because it provides vital transport links for businesses in Retford, Nottingham, Lincoln and the Sheffield City Region. In addition military aircraft primarily helicopters, occasionally use the airport facilities and royal helicopter flights frequently refuel at the airport.

Retford-Gamston it is able to accommodate traffic that would not realistically be able to gain access to larger facilities, for example, Doncaster-Sheffield Airport. Following the closure of Sheffield City Airport, Retford-Gamston is now one of the only airports of its size in our region, serving the needs of the business aviation and flying training sectors.

The Proposals

The proposals outlined in the planning application (20/01518/FUL) will damage aviation at the airport.

How to Object

As the statutory consultation period has now ended you need to submit your comments by email or post. We expect the application to be reviewed by the Bassetlaw planning committee over the next few months and your comments will still be taken into consideration by the planning department.

You can email planning@bassetlaw.gov.uk or write to The Head of Regeneration, Queens buildings, Potter Street, Worksop, S80 2AH. Please include the application reference number.

  • Retford-Gamston is a profitable major General and Business Aviation airport in its own right. Several offers have been made in recent years to purchase the site for continued use as an airport and these proposals are not a requirement for continued commercial viability.
  • Joint use of the airport for motor vehicle testing will impact safety. Aircraft and cars do not mix well and the CAA are unlikely to issue a license for a runway with dual use and irregular surface markings.
  • Safety Management Systems are a requirement for corporate/business aircraft and airports. Use of the runway for vehicle testing would need to be demonstrably safe. The question of safety and liability issues should an aviation accident occur as a result of the proposed dual use is not addressed by the plans.
  • The proposals include converting hangars 6-11 into a vehicle test facility, unfortunately this overlooks the fact that these hangars contain approximately two-thirds of all aircraft in hangars at the airport. Displacing general aviation aircraft from the site will lead to a loss of income of over £1million per year which will render the site unprofitable and susceptible to further development.
  • An automotive test facility could be built to the east of the current hangars, on land owned by the proposers.  This would provide many of the benefits of the Thatcham proposals for the local community without displacing aircraft.
  • The proposals would result in a gradual winding-down of aviation activity at the site. Over time this could result in the direct loss of over 100 highly skilled technical and aviation jobs at the airport and throughout the region (including flight training, engineering and aircraft support services). Small aircraft form part of a vibrant nationwide industry. Vehicle testing will create a maximum of 47 jobs at the site, only 29 of which will be accessible to local residents.
  • The hangars lost as part of the plan accommodate all types of aircraft from historic types to light commercial jets, turboprop aircraft and helicopters. Until recently hangar six was home to the Children’s Air Ambulance. It is not correct to assume that these are all expensive toys owned by private individuals.
  • The economic benefits of vehicle testing are unlikely to fully offset the loss of aircraft and aviation businesses based at the site. Several aerospace companies in surrounding communities benefit directly from the airport and will become unviable as a result.
  • Changes to the distribution of commercial traffic at larger airports nearby as a result of Brexit (for example, increased freight handling at Doncaster, East Midlands or Humberside) will mean that it is less likely that aircraft displaced from Retford-Gamston can be accommodated elsewhere. A reduction in airline services following the pandemic and Brexit will also increase the need for General Aviation.
  • The main runway will only be available for ‘limited periods’ during the working week whilst vehicle testing takes place. This will have the effect of concentrating remaining aircraft flying (including training flights that often remain in the local area) into the evenings and weekends when noise disruption to local residents is more likely.
  • As a result of vehicle testing, it has been suggested that flying training operations may need to use the second runway (14-32) more frequently. Pilot training flights often require aircraft to fly ‘circuits’ around the airfield.  The circuit for this runway is closer to Elkesley village than that for the main runway and may concentrate aircraft noise in the vicinity of the village. This runway is also owned by a local farmer, not the proposer, and its long-term availability therefore cannot be guaranteed.

Local Business

  • DEA Aviation: Operate & maintain a fleet of 10 ‘special mission’ equipped aircraft fulfilling UK government and European agency contracts for airborne intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance amongst other activities.
  • Radiola Aerospace Europe: Provide flight inspection and calibration services for air transportation navigational aids and communications equipment, for civilian and military use.
  • Reach Aerospace: Aircraft Management, sales & contract maintenance 
  • Contrail Flight Services: Ground handling services for visiting business aircraft, passengers and pilots.
  • Gemstone Aviation: Recently appointed UK & Eire distributor for Diamond Aircraft
  • Industries of Austria.
  • Five separate businesses are engaged in pilot training to European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) standards, trial flying lessons and aircraft rental. These businesses include Gamston Flying School, ALH Skytrain. Kuki Helicopters (also provide helicopter sales), True Airspeed Flight Training and Gamston Flight Training.
  • A number of other local businesses, including providers of engineering and aviation services rely on the airport and visiting aircraft as a source of work. Nottinghamshire Police use the site (between 12 and 15 times per annum) to deliver for advanced driver training in tactical pursuit and containment). 

*Listing here does not indicate commercial endorsement, the ‘Save Retford (Gamston) Airport’ campaign group is not associated with any of the companies listed above.