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UK government gives go-ahead to TAG Farnborough expansion

TAG Farnborough's has won its protracted and acrimonious battle with the local community to double the number of aircraft movements at the UK's only dedicated business aviation airport.

The UK government's decision to uphold the planning application follows TAG's year-long battle to overturn Rushmoor Borough Council's decision to reject the airport's application for raise its annual movement ceiling from 28,000 to 50,000 by 2019.

The council says it reached this verdict based on a possible increase in noise levels and safety concerns from residents.

"The government acknowledges that business aviation is a major contributor to both the national and the local economies," says TAG Farnborough chief executive Brandon O'Reilly. "Now we can satisfy the demand for business aviation, which despite the economic climate is starting to grow again."

Swiss-owned TAG Farnborough saw business aircraft movements soar from 16,100 in 2003 - its first full year of operation at the site - to almost 28,000 in 2007.

"We almost hit our movement ceiling three years ago," O'Reilly continues. "But when the recession hit in late 2008 the numbers began to fall and we recorded fewer than 23,000 movements in 2009."

However, in 2010 the tally of take-offs and landings rose to 23,500, although O'Reilly says "we had to turn away 1,000 weekend movements [as it exceeded its annual 5,000 cap] and a similar amount were lost due to the ash cloud and the severe weather in the early part of the year".

The 50,000-movement ceiling will be phased in over the next nine years, starting this year with 31,100 - including 5,500 movements at weekends. "The ceiling will be raised to 37,000 in 2012, which is a crucial year for us with the Olympics being staged in the UK," says O'Reilly.

TAG Aviation has invested more than £100 million ($148 million) upgrading the airport since it became leaseholder of the site - home to the biennial Farnborough air show - in 2001.

Building work on three new hangars is scheduled for completion in September, giving the airport a further 11,150m2 (120,000ft2) of enclosed space.

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