Blue Mountains Council steps in to Katoomba Airfield debate

Blue Mountains council has recognised the significant concern within the community about the proposed commercial lease for Katoomba Airfield at Medlow Bath.

Of significant community concern: More than 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposed commercial lease of Katoomba Airfield.

Of significant community concern: More than 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposed commercial lease of Katoomba Airfield.

The council will write to the state government seeking assurances that community concerns be taken into account, and that council be part of the consultation process, with the intention of making a submission to Crown Lands on the proposed lease, in motions put forward by mayor Mark Greenhill and Ward 1 councillor Kerry Brown at Tuesday's council meeting.

"There are community concerns about the impact on wildlife and the noise," Cr Brown said.

"We need the details of the lease.

"What are the impacts on the amenity of residents with the helicopter noise and the impact of tourism on the ground."

Cr Greenhill spoke of the confusion within the community, with residents wanting to know when council would deal with the issue, that would be determined by the state government.

"When I get resident after resident saying when is this being dealt with by council ... the department has not done its job in letting people know precisely what's on the table."

Cr Brown said council must become actively involved.

"Council cannot sit on its hands. If the lease is approved we will then have the DA [development application] to manage and if that is approved we will have a commercial airfield in the local government area.

"It is important that we make a submission on the proposed lease that understands and engages with the issues for the council, our community and the natural environment."

Stephen Cannings from the Katoomba Airfield Community Group welcomed council's involvement but wanted details on the proposal to be released immediately.

"We question how they [council] or anyone else can engage properly in the process when the state government department overseeing this process has steadfastly refused to release the numbers of flights, their frequency and detailed flight paths to the general public beforehand," he said.

"In fact, the state government has so far failed to demonstrate to us that they have properly considered how helicopter tourism will affect the amenity of residents and mainstream tourists. Anything that affects our reputation as a peaceful escape could have unintended knock-on affects for local businesses in our villages and towns.

"The fact is, helicopters are noisy, and noisier still when you are bushwalking in a canyon below them. Peace and quiet is a such an integral part of why people come up here in the first place. If we lose it, many hikers have told us they won't be back."

A spokeswoman for the airfield lessees, Derek and Floyd Larsen of Flyblue Management, said information will be outlined on the industry.nsw.gov.au website shortly and will include plans for higher flight levels, residential no-fly zones, a new enforceable Fly Neighbourly policy, and "light footprint tourism''.

Mrs Larsen said they did not encourage or conduct joy flights - short, low-flying swoops over populated or sensitive areas such as Echo Point, the Grose Valley or the Grand Canyon.

"We can assure the community that our Fly Neighbourly policy categorically bans flights over populated areas,'' she said.

The Department of Industry-Lands will hold community drop-in information sessions from 11am-1pm and 5pm-7pm on June 19 and 25 at Hotel Blue in Lurline St, Katoomba.

A spokesman for the department said: "We want to ensure that community and stakeholders views are fully understood and considered before any decisions on the proposed airfield lease are made."

A public exhibition period will be held in June and the airfield lease proposal will be displayed on the department's website (www.industry.nsw.gov.au) for at least 42 days.

"The community will be invited to make submissions on the proposed airfield lease, and these will be fully considered before a final decision is made on whether to progress the lease application," he said.

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