Proposed lease of Katoomba Airfield

Aerial view of Katoomba Airport

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Crown Lands has determined an application for a proposed lease of Crown land at Medlow Bath known as Katoomba Airfield. The prior lease had come to an end and a new lease applicant, FlyBlue Management Pty Ltd (FlyBlue), was identified following an expression of interest (EOI) process in 2017.

Katoomba Airport location

Katoomba lot map

Decision on proposal

An application by FlyBlue for a lease to operate a commercial airfield, including helicopter flights, at Medlow Bath has been refused, on the basis that there is no valid planning pathway to authorise the proposed activity - a requirement under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

The company’s temporary licence to access the site will also be revoked and it will be required to vacate the site within 28 days.

The site will remain open to emergency services.

Background

In November 2017, FlyBlue responded to an EOI process, with a proposal to revitalise the site as a hub for recreational aviation.

The proposal included:

  • new and upgraded facilities for visitors to the Airfield (subject to appropriate planning approvals)
  • entering into a biodiversity agreement resulting in planting of new trees
  • investment that would support tourism and benefit the local economy
  • confirmation that emergency services would continue to have full access to the site for training and operational purposes.

Community engagement activities for this proposal included:

  • a 56 day public exhibition and submission process - this included a two week extension to the normal exhibition period due to school holidays
  • four drop-in community information sessions held in Katoomba
  • key stakeholder briefings at commencement of the submission period
  • notification on the department’s webpage
  • publication of a notice in the Blue Mountains Gazette advising of the public submission period and the information sessions
  • a fact sheet and frequently-asked questions (FAQs) available from the department website
  • NSW Government Have Your Say website notification

Submissions received

More than 1,500 submissions were received as part of the community consultation process for the proposed lease of Katoomba Airfield. Copies of the submissions are available in the documents below, excluding those where consent to publish was not provided.

These documents are not sorted by any special order and have been grouped to enable easy download as required.

Of the submissions received, more than 85 per cent opposed the lease application and only 13 per cent were in support or offered conditional support.

The community feedback was carefully considered and a final decision made by the department not to proceed with the lease application in its current form.

The department advised FlyBlue that a revised application may be considered if commercial helicopter flights were removed from the application.

The department also advised FlyBlue to consider further community engagement to reach a balanced approach to the management of the concerns expressed during the submission period.

FlyBlue’s licence to operate aviation activities on the site ceased on 28 February 2020.

summary report identifying key themes from the consultation process was developed by the department and is available for download.

Consultation Summary Report Addendum

A summary of community and stakeholder feedback provided during information sessions and key stakeholder meetings is included in the Addendum to the consultation summary report.

Independent review of community engagement process

Following concerns raised by the lease proponent, FlyBlue, then Secretary of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment requested the Crown Lands Commissioner, Professor Richard Bush, undertake an independent review of the community consultation process for the proposed lease of the Katoomba Airfield.

The independent review was guided by terms of reference, with the Commissioner providing the final Crown Land Commissioner Report to the Secretary on 19 May 2020.

The Secretary has reviewed the recommendations from the Commissioner's report and requested Crown Lands consider appropriate implementation.