A PROBLEM-plagued search for a flying school site ended yesterday when approval was given to establish the facility at Glen Innes.
Australia Asia Flight Training’s (AAFT) proposal to train and house up to 600 prospective commercial pilots at the Glen Innes Aerodrome was approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel.
Glen Innes Severn Council recommended the $14.8 million development go ahead.
The decision followed Liverpool Plains Shire Council’s controversial rejection of the proposal in February, after AAFT earmarked Quirindi airport as a potential site.
In 2009 an approved application at Gunnedah fell through, while Narrabri, Tamworth, Moree and Inverell had also been considered.
“After substantial investment, we’re very happy, and we think it shows the maturity of the people of Glen Innes and the competency of their council,” AAFT director Neil Hansford told The Leader.
He said work on the school could begin as early as the middle of 2013.
A decision on the proposal was deferred in October because an assessment of potential contamination had not been undertaken.
But panel chairman Garry West said the council and proponent had since satisfactorily addressed the issue.
The first stage of the school can proceed, but a detailed remediation action plan must be prepared to the satisfaction of the council before the second stage goes ahead.
Other noise and parking concerns were also addressed.
“For a small town, as for any regional centre, business like this is a shot in the arm,” Mr West said.
The school was overwhelmingly supported by the Glen Innes community – of the 718 submissions the council received, just 27 outlined objections or concerns.
Mayor Colin Price said there was a “great deal of relief” it had been approved.
“It’s using a facility that currently is almost unused and is costly for council and the community, in terms of upkeep, and it will turn it into economic benefit for the community,” Cr Price said.
“It’s very much in line with our 10-year strategic plan.”
The flight academy includes teaching facilities, accommodation, dining and recreation facilities, a control tower and other airport infrastructure, car parking, and a three-lot subdivision of aerodrome land.
Flying will be permitted year ’round, between the hours of 6am and 10pm, except on certain public holidays.