Airport objects to new hospice due to increase in ‘bird strike risk hazard’

Gatwick Airport has objected to plans for a new hospice and homes in Pease Pottage due to an increase in ‘bird strike risk hazard’.

How new homes could look in Pease Pottage SUS-151130-165200001
How new homes could look in Pease Pottage SUS-151130-165200001

St Catherine’s Hospice has partnered with Thakeham Homes to promote a new development on land off Brighton Road for a 24-bed care facility, up to 600 new homes, cafe, a community building, retail units, and a new primary school.

The hospice, based in Malthouse Road, Crawley, has 18 inpatient beds, but is not currently able to cater for the amount of people needing palliative support in the area and has limited family areas.

However Gatwick, as a consultee, has objected to the application as it stands, as it believes the open water in the proposed ponds will attract birds ‘hazardous to aircraft’ such as feral geese, duck, grey heron and cormorants.

St Catherine's Hospice site at Pease Pottage SUS-151130-145539001

Birds can cause damage to aircraft either by being sucked into the engines or by colliding with the windscreen, as happened in 2009 when a plane was forced to safely land in New York’s Hudson River shortly after take off.

Gatwick’s consultation response, sent to Mid Sussex District Council as the local planning authority, read: “As this is a residential development it is envisaged that feeding of the birds by the general public is highly likely, thus creating an additional attractant to these birds.”

It also suggested that the grassland surrounding the water bodies, if mown short, could create a grazing habitat for birds, and suggested that open water should be reduced to a minimum.

Meanwhile Highways England has raised concerns that proposals have the potential to impact the ‘safe and efficient operation of the strategic road network’, in this case the M23 at junction 11, and part of the A23.

Aircraft at Gatwick Airport

It has asked for more information to be provided in the application’s transport assessment and travel plans, as well as a commitment from Metrobus that it will extend the number 1 service from Broadfield.

Robert Boughton, managing director of Thakeham Homes, said: “We will consider the comments of the statutory consultees and work with them and the Council to make any necessary amendments to ensure our proposals, for these much needed new homes and hospice facility, seeks to addresses their concerns.”

Giles Tomsett, chief executive at St Catherine’s Hospice, added: “At St Catherine’s Hospice our priority is providing increased care and support services to local people and their families living with a terminal illness. Our focus has been designing a building that enables us to support more people, in the most dignified and comfortable way, whilst ensuring charitable funds are invested appropriately.

“As a named beneficiary of this development we are fortunate that the wider proposals and infrastructure improvements have been set out by Thakeham Homes and other consulted experts.

Giles Tomsett (Chief Exec St Catherines Hospice). Pic Steve Robards SR1523062 SUS-150210-135722001

“They have carefully considered the traffic and ecological impact and how to minimise and improve these. They will be taking on board all feedback, including that of Gatwick Airport and Highways England, to ensure the proposed site is a benefit to the community, the safety of local residents is maintained and disruption is minimised.”

A number of residents have written to the district council in support of the application, describing a new facility to care for terminally-ill people as a ‘no-brainer’.

One resident added: “There should be no debate, this facility is urgently needed in the area and this site represents the best location.”

Although the charity has received a number of sizeable donations towards the new hospice project, it still needs to raise another £6m if planning approval is granted.

Residents can respond to the application’s consultation on MSDC’s planning portal.

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