Lease on Katoomba airfield knocked back

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has knocked back an application for a lease at Katoomba Airfield at Medlow Bath after "overwhelming community opposition" to the idea.

The lease was publicly exhibited for eight weeks from June 9 to August 4 and attracted 1,582 submissions, with more than 85 per cent opposing the application and only 13 per cent in support or offering conditional support.

The department's deputy secretary of crown lands Anne Skewes said there had been overwhelming community opposition to a proposal for helicopter charter flights due to concerns about potential impacts on the region.

"In direct response ... the department has declined the application by FlyBlue to lease Katoomba Airfield at Medlow Bath to use as a recreational aviation hub," Ms Skewes said.

"Among concerns were noise pollution, preserving the appeal of the Mountains as a peaceful environment, potential pollution of water supplies, and protecting Aboriginal heritage," Ms Skewes said.

"We've heard loud and clear that proposal shouldn't go ahead and we are working with FlyBlue to determine the future use of the site."

Noise was a key theme in 1,154 of the 1,354 submissions opposing the lease.

The applicant's interim licence ends on February 28 and a new interim licence will be issued that prohibits helicopter flights. The airfield will remain open to emergency services. Some 694 (43.9 per cent) of submissions recommended the land be incorporated into the national park and managed for emergency use only.

The compatibility of the operations of a commercial airfield with the values of a national park, wilderness and world heritage area was questioned in the submissions, as well as the closeness to popular walking tracks. It was suggested proposed flight paths would have direct, negative and potentially dangerous impacts on sports aviation and ground-based recreation.

"A common reflection was that the Mountains' brand is 'peace and quiet', and additional noise from a commercial-scale operation at Katoomba Airfield would be highly invasive, reverberating and amplifying from the escarpment walls, valleys and canyons," the report said.

Blue Mountains Council opposed the commercialisation of the airfield and the issue was also debated in NSW Parliament on August 1, after residents gathered more than 12,000 signatures opposing the plans.

Blue Mtns Peacekeepers posted on Facebook it was a "triumph of science and reason and common good over the selfish interests of the biggish end of town".

The Gazette has sought comment from FlyBlue.