Transport secretary Grant Shapps has allegedly spent public money on lobbying to oppose the government’s plans to build on private runways, the Sunday Times reported.
An aviation aficionado, Grant’s reported fight against development plans has led housing agency Home England to withdraw plans for thousands of homes to be built, including a project to build 3,000 homes at Chalgrove airfield in South Oxfordshire.
Shapps is also said to have diverted taxpayers’ money and set up the Airfield Advisory Team, which aims to help private airfields “engage with” the planning system, the paper wrote.
The government’s response didn’t take long to arrive. A source told PA that the body “is not a lobbying body, it is an advisory body to help general aviation with problems they may have, which may be planning or anything else.”
“It is not essentially anti-housing – indeed housing can sometimes be a solution for financing an airfield,” they told the news agency.
“As secretary of state for transport, it is his function to protect general aviation and we’ve seen a decline in the number of airfields across the country.”
Talking to the BBC, COP26 president Alok Sharma came to Shapps’ defence and said: “I just spent the last three weeks hunkered down here in Glasgow, what I would say to you is that Grant Shapps is doing a great job at transport.
“He has set out the transport decarbonisation strategy, he leads on the jet zero project we’ve got so there’s an enormous amount of good work that is going on in the department.”
“It is right that the transport secretary works to promote all aspects of the department’s brief including the general aviation sector which contributes £4bn to the economy and supports 40,000 jobs, especially as we focus on our recovery from the pandemic and on building a diverse workforce that’s fit for the future,” added a Department for Transport’s spokesperson.