FLIGHTS at Old Sarum are set to quadruple to 125,000 in coming years as the owner plans to make it the busiest grass airfield in the UK.

Matthew Hudson claims that he agreed to limit flights to 30,000 back in 2007, in exchange for permission to build housing on "surplus land" at the site.

The loss of revenue has cost him "many millions of pounds", and Wiltshire Council's "continuous delays" over his plans to build 460 homes have left him with no choice but to take full advantage of his "unlimited flying" rights, he says.

Slamming the council for "ten years of default and stonewalling", Mr Hudson says the changes will produce "considerably more revenue" than the restricted operations of "quiet, light single-engined aircraft" that have been in place.

In a statement released by the airfield, Mr Hudson says it was in January 2007, at the request of Salisbury District Council, that he agreed to control noise by restricting flying to a low volume of light aircraft, in return for making it viable through the development of "non-flying revenue sources".

A spokesman for the airfield said: "In exchange for forgoing the noisier, more lucrative twins, helicopters and night flying, the council agreed to allow housing development on some of Mr Hudson’s surplus land next to the airfield.

"Income from this would support a lower number of aircraft flying at the airfield and allow its long-term future to be protected through the addition of commercially viable assets such as a heritage centre.

"The core policy subsequently put in place makes this exchange between the council and airfield the cornerstone of planning policy for the airfield and environs."

Mr Hudson, 74, had previously reduced annual aircraft movements - take-offs and landings - from 60,000 to around 30,000.

But he lifted flying restrictions towards the end of 2016, saying that in 2017 it will surpass 60,000 movements and predicts it will hit 125,000 within a few years.

The heavier twin-engined aircraft and helicopters are back and night flying has resumed.

Mr Hudson, a Canadian who now lives in the Bahamas, said: "In the late 1990s I warned the council against approving housing close to the airfield. This advice was consistently ignored. By 2005 the easily foreseeable outcome was many noise complaints from new residents.

"January 2017 marked ten years since Salisbury District Council, now part of Wiltshire Council, made an agreement with me, an agreement which I have followed but which Wiltshire Council has not honoured.

"In the decade since, flying has been drastically reduced at Old Sarum, at the cost of many millions of pounds.

"The airfield’s rights to unlimited flying are sacrosanct as they pre-date the Town and Country Planning Act - as the council discovered by means of a lengthy internal legal review."

He said the council's "artificial obstructions" to prevent the airfield's development plans had meant its heritage centre plans were now threatened.

"A deal in principle had been struck to house the National Aerospace Library in a purpose-built centre, but the Royal Aeronautical Society has delayed for more than a year and cannot wait any longer due to lease provisions of the current site at Farnborough," he said.

"I have extended the time for determination of the planning application on numerous occasions but I will not do so again."

Plans for the airfield development were submitted to Wiltshire Council in June 2015.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said Mr Hudson had "unrealistic expectations" that were not "legally possible". 

She said:  “There is a clear approach set out in the Wiltshire Core Strategy, which allows for new development where the necessary impacts of this and of flying activity can be mitigated.

"While we have patiently sought to assist the owner in the development of a suitable scheme, the owner appears to have unrealistic expectations that do not match the requirements of the policy and that are not legally possible.”