A CONTROVERSIAL airfield in Newport should not be given official clearance, ruled an independent inspector.

Residents have long campaigned against the development at Upfield Farm in Whitson.

In September last year, they were delighted when the council refused to grant Kenneth Bowen retrospective approval for a concrete runway and hangar buildings.

However, Mr Bowen lodged an appeal and a six-day public inquiry was held over two periods in August and October this year.

Now the planning inspector Graham Self has published his decision to dismiss the appeal.

In an 18-page document he said his overall judgement was that although there were weaknesses in the council's case, there were greater weaknesses in the appellant's.

In his report, Mr Self found that what had been a "farm strip" used by a small number of aircraft without complaint had become an aerodrome with significantly more intensive aircraft-related use with more than 1,000 movements a year.

Mr Self said there were compelling reasons to refuse permission because of the amenity, perceived hazards and visual impacts of the development.

Mr Bowen did not want to comment at this time.

But a council spokesman said it was pleased the inspector had supported its decision and confirmed that the use of site for aviation did not have planning permission.

It had issued an enforcement notice for the removal of the hangars, runway and a hard standing and preventing use of the site for aviation. The decision was also welcomed by RSPB Cymru's planning casework officer James Byrne.

He said for too long the Gwent Levels had been seen as flat land, ripe for development, but the Newport Wetlands Nature Reserve together with its environment and education centre demonstrated that quality employment could be created in ways that worked alongside nature.

In his report Mr Self referred to accidents involving aircraft based at or flying to Upfield Farm including a near miss between a microlight and a military jet.

In June 2007, two occupants of an aircraft returning from Cornwall died when it suffered structural failure and crashed near Magor.

Then in July the following year an aircraft taking off from Upfield Farm crashed the other side of Whitson Common Road and was destroyed by fire.

"According to written evidence (corroborated in separate submissions) a bus carrying passengers was travelling along the road and arrived at the nearby bus stop less than a minute later."