Enforcement notice on Bovingdon airfield motorsports puts around 50 people’s jobs at risk

Runways Farm, Bovingdon. Picture are farm owner Cathy Leahy and Drift Limits owner Jonny Barden.
Runways Farm, Bovingdon. Picture are farm owner Cathy Leahy and Drift Limits owner Jonny Barden.

Around 50 people’s jobs are at risk after council chiefs served an enforcement notice banning motorsports on a village airfield.

Runways Farm in Bovingdon is the base for almost 20 businesses including supercar experience days, drifting and a driving academy, which among other training, offers time behind the wheel for teenagers to learn safety.

But Dacorum Borough Council served a notice ordering that all motor activities must stop – except the already approved use by the police for training for 60 days of the year.

The ban also applies to use by the fire service, which uses the track for driver training.

Runways Farm submitted an application for a certificate of lawfulness to continue operating, as the owners say it has done so for the past 10 years, back in February 2013.

That was declined in January this year, and Cathy Leahy who runs the site that has been owned by her family since 1983, said the following day an enforcement notice was served on the farm.

They have since appealed the decision and are awaiting a response.

“There are quite a few businesses here that only run from here so unfortunately it would be the end of their business so there are a lot of livelihoods at stake,” she said.

“Pretty much every single farm you can think of has got some activity that is diversifying to support their farming. It has kept our business going for the last 20 years and it is key to the underlying profitability of the farm.

“We have got to put everything we can into fighting the appeal. We will worry about a plan B if we have to.”

She said she is happy to meet with householders who are upset about the noise levels – an offer she has already extended at a village parish council meeting.

Cathy said there are also other options to help combat the noise, from planting trees, to adjusting the race track’s surface and installing silencers in cars.

Jonny Barden, who owns Drift Limits, dropped out of university to pursue his motorsports dream and after three years says it is finally starting to pay off.

He said: “We have been here for three years and we haven’t had any noise complaints until very recently.

“It is many people’s livelihoods, not just mine. I have got an amazing team behind me.”

Complaints to the council described the noise as ‘excessive’, ‘horrific’ and ‘intrusive’. They said the frequency and hours have increase dramatically in the past year.

Last year, Bovingdon Action Group was set up by a number of people living in Box Lane, which backs onto the airfield. Through its campaign website people were urged to object to the certificate of lawfulness application.