PENINSULA Aero Club is blaming “a small noisy anti-airport lobby group” for making it observe a “holy hour” ban on flying.
The 9.30am-10.30am restriction on Sunday take-offs and landings from the Tyabb airfield has been ignored for more than 40 years.
The All Saints Church, which the original flying ban was supposed to protect from noise, ended its Sunday services in the 1970s.
But an unholy row lit up two weeks ago when the aero club suddenly withdrew its request for Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to delete the restriction from its permit.
The council meeting to discuss the permit variation was scheduled to be held at Hastings to accommodate an expected large crowd, but was hurriedly moved back to the shire’s Rosebud headquarters when the main agenda item was deleted.
The shire had appeared set to replacing the holy hour ban with another that stopped the airfield from being used between sunset on Saturdays to 9am on Sundays.
Aero club president Jack Vevers said the enforcement of the holy hour meant planes were now “forced to begin flying operations earlier on a Sunday morning” while other aircraft may also have to circle overhead until after 10.30am waiting to land”.
He said the club had been acting on legal advice and has made a new application to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) “to have the matter heard later in the year”.
More than 100 objectors to lifting the restriction were planning to front the council, meeting at the more convenient council chambers in Hastings.
The aero club has now accused the shire of neglecting its obligations to make sure development around the airfield does not restrict flying activities.
“This is the outcome of a few people finding a technical hole in our permit and using it to harass the aero club and coerce council into committing an act of bureaucratic stupidity when they have the power to simply grant an application,” Mr Vevers said.
“The shire agreed the holy hour was obsolete but, after encouraging the aero club to apply to have this condition removed from its permits, in a complete turnaround responded with an ill-considered and unrelated new condition that will damage airport jobs and have an adverse effect on community amenity.
“… The shire is actually obligated to protect the airport to ensure it doesn’t allow inappropriate development or building of homes near the airport.
“The shire has neglected those obligations and is now attempting to apply new and unrelated conditions which will adversely affect the viability of the airport.”
The mayor Cr David Gill told The News that shire had supported the aero club to the tune of “hundreds of thousands of dollars” towards a landing area for emergency services aircraft and “we’’l also be contributing to widening the runway for safety reasons”.
“They’ve bltatantly ignored the holy hour ban on Sundays, which was a one day a week break from noise, when there are no real restrictions on flying time.”
Meanwhile, the shire is awaiting the result of “a full legal review” of planning permits applying to the airfield.
The review must be completed by 30 June and include “the opinion of a fully instructed and suitably qualified and experienced in planning matters Queens Counsel with junior”.