Blackbushe Airport must remain part of Yateley Common

12 October 2017

We have objected to the application by Blackbushe Airport Ltd to remove the common-land status from the airport on Yateley Common in Hampshire.
The post-war history of Yateley common is one of conflict between the peaceful use of the common for recreation and nature conservation, and the retention and expansion of wartime aerodrome facilities. Yateley common, including much of the aerodrome, was rightly registered as common land in March 1975 under the Commons Registration Act 1965 by Commons Commissioner Baden Fuller but, before and after, the aerodrome has continued to be developed notwithstanding its status as common land, and commoners’ rights to use it for grazing and other purposes.

Now, almost half a century after its registration, Blackbushe Airport Ltd has applied to deregister nearly half a square kilometre of the airport by alleging that all of the land is ‘curtilage’ of the terminal building(1). The society has objected, saying that Parliament provided for the deregistration of buildings and curtilage to deal with situations where not only a house or other building had long been on the common, but also an adjoining garden, yard or shed.

But at Blackbushe, the applicant claims that 47 hectares of grassland, taxiways and car parks are the ‘curtilage’ of the terminal building, which itself covers just one-twentieth of one per cent of the area sought to be deregistered.

The applicant claims that everything in the foreground of this photograph — the car park, the apron, the light aircraft — is within the curtilage of the terminal building and control tower shown, along with nearly half a square kilometre of runways, taxiways, aprons and grassland.

Commenting on the application, the society’s case officer, Hugh Craddock, said: ‘The aerodrome is no more the curtilage of the terminal building than a public park is the curtilage of the park-keeper’s cottage or a golf course is the curtilage of the members’ club house. This application is a cynical attempt to reverse, once and for all, the recognition that the aerodrome is rightly part of the common.’

‘The application cites various legal cases on listed buildings to show that the curtilage of a stately home can be quite extensive. Our objection demonstrates that listed building law is of minimal assistance in this context, and that the curtilage of a building should have its usual meaning — “a small area about a building” with which it has an “intimate association”(2).’

Hugh adds: ‘There is no “intimate association” here. The terminal building is about 1,200 metres away from the west end of the runway. We, and local people, will fight this application. It has no merit, and the applicants would do well to withdraw it.’

1 Under paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 to the Commons Act 2006, application may be made to deregister common land which, at the time of its registration under the 1965 Act, and ever since, has been covered by a building or the curtilage of a building. The application was made by Blackbushe Airport Ltd to Hampshire County Council as the commons registration authority. The society expects the application to be referred to the Planning Inspectorate acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for determination.

2 See McAlpine v Secretary of State for the Environment and Another (1995) 159 L.G. Rev. 429.