Strong response to Katoomba Airfield

Against the airfield plans: Mountains residents who travelled to state parliament to hear the Katoomba Airfield petition debated.
Against the airfield plans: Mountains residents who travelled to state parliament to hear the Katoomba Airfield petition debated.

Council will debate the future of Katoomba Airfield at its meeting tomorrow night, with a report recommending that it opposes any commercialisation.

Council was given an extension of time to make its submission on the airfield plans.

A report prepared for the meeting recommends council reinforce its long-standing position that the site be incorporated into the national park and maintained as an emergency airfield only.

Kerry Brown, who raised the issue at the May council meeting, said: "I moved that council make this submission supporting community concerns after speaking with Crown Lands officers who said they hoped to hear from the council as a key stakeholder.

"I have attended numerous presentations and community meetings about this proposed commercial lease and I see no positive arguments."

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, said while council has no say in what amounts to commercial discussions between the state government and a private operator, "it is clear there are widespread concerns about how any form of commercialisation may impact residents' quality of life, the visitor experience, as well as the local environment".

Cr Greenhill said the Mountains are "the lungs of Sydney. We are a World Heritage Area and that means we need to maintain the highest standards of protection".

"That said, we think it should be open to emergency services and emergency circumstances, as it has been for years.

"People come to live here to get away from Sydney and I am happy to keep the busy nature of Sydney out. On that basis, and after listening to the community, I don't think the proposal is appropriate."

More than 1,500 submissions were made over the future of Katoomba Airfield. The department of industry held a number of public meetings to get input on the proposed commercial lease over the Medlow Bath site.

It also invited submissions and received 1,580, said a department spokesman.

"The department will now consider all the submissions and publish a findings report. The findings report will guide the department on next steps prior to making a decision on whether to enter into negotiations with the proponent for a lease.

Residents with Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, outside NSW parliament.

Residents with Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, outside NSW parliament.

"Given the large number of submissions, this process will take at least two months."

The issue was debated in NSW Parliament on August 1, after residents successfully gathered more than 12,000 signatures on a petition opposing the plans for the airfield.

Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, said that, historically, the use of the airfield was "very small scale with minimal, if any, impact on residents and tourists enjoying the Mountains".

She also noted that it was available for emergency services when needed. The current licensees have pledged to continue that availability.

"I share the concerns of many in the Blue Mountains that a radically expanded airport at Medlow Bath may induce a level of flight activity that is unacceptable to the amenity of local residents and that is out of step with the peaceful bushland setting of the Katoomba Airfield," Mr Doyle said.

She also believed that fly-in fly-out services would not increase the number of people in accommodation or in restaurants.

She supported "a small operation at the airstrip that would sustain the airfield, ensure that it remained available to our emergency services and that it could continue to serve as an emergency landing location for passing aircraft".

Derek and Floyd Larsen were granted an interim licence over the airfield last year. They have now put forward a proposal to support their application for a 50-year lease, with plans to operate a commercial airfield, sealing one of the runways to allow recreational, fixed-wing aircraft to use it.

The Larsens' current licence, which includes access for emergency services, will remain in place until the department makes its decision.