Bentwaters: Increased flying from old air base would be ‘major threat’ to Aldeburgh Festival, say event organisers

Bentwaters Bentwaters

Friday, July 4, 2014
12:31 PM

Organisers of the world famous Aldeburgh Festival fear allowing extra flying at the former Bentwaters military base will disrupt musical performances and recordings.

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Aldeburgh Music, established by composers Sir Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears and theatrical director Eric Crozier to host the annual festival at Snape Maltings, described extra flights as “a major reputational and financial threat” to the event.

The charity has stepped into a row which has split communities across east Suffolk since Bentwaters Parks, owners of the old USAF base, submitted a blueprint for its future.

The owners say the main aim is to regularise activities at the 940-acre former Cold War base, settling the use of nearly 200 buildings and permitting 960 air movements a year, an average of less than two flights a week.

This would include an air show, the flying of heritage planes and occasional business flights. They has denied it is an attempt to create a civil airport.

Opponents though believe extra flying will destroy the tranquillity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, harm wildlife, and ruin one of the main reasons people visit the Suffolk Coastal area.

Others have pointed out that it was far noisier when Bentwaters was an active USAF base – when the Aldeburgh Festival would have been running.

Harry Young, general manager and interim chief executive of Aldeburgh Music, said activity at Snape was a major economic driver for the region and the level of flying proposed could disrupt concerts, recordings and its young artist programmes, as well as disturbing the tranquillity of the AONB.

He said: “Whilst this level of activity may not seem huge, these flights could be grouped together on a fine summer day, to cause a very significant disturbance to a performance or recording, and the environment.

“One of the aeroplanes is the Spitfire that memorably featured at the start of last year’s Grimes on the Beach performances, but the other planes are far, far noisier.

“The most serious risk is that if permission is granted, it would be easier for the operators to increase the level of flying in the future, making this the thin end of the wedge.

“The quality of the hall’s acoustic is world renowned. Performances are often broadcast and reviewed in the national and international press. Aeroplanes can be heard by audiences and detected by microphones. There is a major reputational and financial threat.”

Steven Bainbridge, of Evolution Town Planning, agents for Bentwaters’ owners, was “particularly disappointed” at Aldeburgh Music’s comments. He had spoken to Mr Young and offered to meet him to explain the planning application.

He said: “Aldeburgh Music’s views totally confound me. My understanding is that the festival and concert hall were operating when Bentwaters was an active military base and there was never any complaints made.”

The owners had employed recognised experts to carry out a tranquility study, submitted with the application, and the very limited flying proposed would not have any significant impact on the area.

23 comments

  • Personally I find the sound of a Spitfire to be more musical than some of the noise that passes for classical music these days.

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    Richard West

    Saturday, July 5, 2014

  • @juwells - Thats my point exactly, if Benjamin Britten was not put off by the very noisy F-4 Phantom jets that were based at Bentwaters at that time in 1967. Why oh why is Harry Young so concerned about the very occasional small propeller aircraft that MIGHT fly over from Bentwaters now !!

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    milkyway

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • They cant be serious surely? What a complete load of utter tripe!.....smacks of desperation going on here. Why are they so up themselves. Why are they making life so difficult for others that actually want to improve the culture of Suffolk. Totally dismayed and cant understand these people.

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    Alan Scurrell

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • They cant be serious surely? What a complete load of utter tripe!.....smacks of desperation going on here. Why are they so up themselves. Why are they making life so difficult for others that actually want to improve the culture of Suffolk. Totally dismayed and cant understand these people.

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    Alan Scurrell

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • I just hope that the Suffolk Coastal Planning Councillors get to read all these comments before EADT wipe them off the news items. You have to search for them now.

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    if only

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Activity at Bentwaters Park is also a major economic driver for Suffolk? And the planning request is to stabilise what is happening already? It would cost millions to upgrade Bentwaters to a civil airport standard and increase flight numbers - who could reasonablly argue that is likely to happen. The Grace spitfire is a great advert for Suffolk and for Britain. Why would the Aldeburgh Festival people have an agenda against the success of the Grace spitfire is a more pertinent question for EADT journalists to ask as that is what is really the crux of all these debates.

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    Nigel H.

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • I am surprised that the self appointed cultural elite have not wheeled out the odd 'celebrity" to support this very spurious attempt to control the local economy for their own benefit, because it certainly is not in Suffolk's interest

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    Athelfric

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • How does Mr Youngs know that the other aircraft are 'far far noisier' ? I know from first hand that the Spitfire with its V12 1500hp Merlin engine is louder flying past than the other aircraft listed on the planning application, but he says the Spitfire is o.k !! In comparison a Pitts engine is 260hp and a Piper Cub is just 65hp, that is really going to blow the roof off the concert hall !! So its just a crock of lies coming from Snape (or is it really Tunstall) Maltingsconcert hall.

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    milkyway

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • These people seemingly want East Suffolk all to themselves and should really step down off there high horses. Aldeburgh Music really should stop gaining all there information from the Bentwaters Campaign Group, and actually grasp that noise assessments have been passed and that the base flying has never been a problem before, and nothings going to change! The people that oppose baffle me! Are they just playing stupid or actually cant grasp these flying proposals?

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    Luk38644 .

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • The 'Cultural Elite' should remember that it is not ticket sales alone which keep their venues open - grants (lottery or government) play a major part in allowing them to go about their activities. We mere mortals contribute to these grants through our purchase of lottery tickets, taxes etc. Maybe they should consider that many of their benefactors may enjoy seeing an old plane or two in the sky from time to time before they jump on the NIMBY bandwagon. Incidentally, I live a few villages away from Wattisham and the helecopters make aboslutely no impact on the enjoyment of my garden, the countryside or my music.

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    Suffolk Boy

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Before long they will be objecting to the planes of the Queens birthday flypast forming up over the North Sea and flying over Southwold and Ipswich on the way to London.

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    amsterdam81

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • If aeroplanes do interfere with said concerts and recordings it makes you wonder who in 1967, in their infinite wisdom, thought it was a good idea to convert the old maltings into a concert hall so near to a fully operational USAF airbase in the first place!! Didn't hear of any complaints when the Americans were flying on a daily basis... Aldeburgh Festival should save all the hot air they're blowing for their instruments!

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    Juwells

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • This is quite the most specious argument that I've heard for a long time. Good for Mr. Bainbridge for pointing out the obvious. This is all about snobbery, property prices and people from almost everywhere bar Suffolk.

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    T Doff

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • What a load of utter dribble. Those NIMBY's are using every bit of misinformation they can to try and bolster up their weak argument. Aldeburgh is 7.3 miles from Bentwaters' runway and Snape Maltings is 3.8 miles away, both measured as the crow flies. How can they claim noise pollution at these distances? They never complained when there was constant military jet traffic all day every day using far louder aircraft far more frequently. Maybe they should all consider somewhere like the Isles of Scilly to live, although, wait a minute, there's a helicopter pad there too!

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    Gavin Hamilton

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • @Victor Meldrew - why don't you try restricting your comments to what people have actually said, not what you think they might say?

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    Origami Penguin

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Frankly I'm amazed that there are objections to a few aircraft. As the article says there wasn't a problem when there were A10s flying from Bentwaters every few minutes and the Apaches using RAF Woodbridge & Wattisham are far noisier.

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    davidsuffolk

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • And the 98% of locals who have nothing to do with the Aldeburgh Festival couldn't give two hoots. I'm so fed up with the self-styled cultural elite insisting they have everything their way.

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    Ex-IP17

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Just "Posh" NIMBY's. They will be complaining about the army helicopters, police helicopter and the Air Sea Rescue one next.

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    The original Victor Meldrew

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Considering this is the 67th festival how did it survive when there were two USAF active airbases around? With planes which I am sure were far noisier than those supposedly to be used now.

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    Andys

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • I didn't realise they did concerts outdoors - sounds very nice. If they are talking about indoors maybe they need more sounds dampening

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    zaax

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • More froth whipped up by the NIMBYs. How much of a disturbance to Snape were the Americans when it was a very active flying base. And these were very noisy jets.

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    John Alborough

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Those of us of a certain age can remember when RAF Bentwaters was a fully operational USAF base. The people representing the Aldeburgh Festival must have very short memories.

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    BigGeoff

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • Oh for goodness sake! I think seeing the spitfire flying over Aldeburgh would enhance the festival. Are the festival organisers also going to make the military and commercial planes not fly over Aldeburgh so they don't disturb the festival? This whole situation absolutely stinks of being a few, vocal, well positioned, campaigners scare mongering against the proposal. What with local concillors not declaring their interests (when being members of a campaign group has to be declared), the whole against campaign seems somewhat corrupt. If flying is no longer permitted from Bentwaters then the area, which is currently designated as restricted airspace due to the flight movements from the base, would be open for any other flight operator to use...

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    Emmy Lou

    Friday, July 4, 2014

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