Thatcham gets permission for car test centre at Gamston Airport

Planning permission has been granted for Thatcham Research to build its car testing centre at Gamston Airport.

The test centre will take over six hangars currently used by private aircraft and the main runway will be shared with aviation.

Planning permission was granted by Bassetlaw District Council at an Extraordinary Meeting on 18 August 2021.

Mr John Gilder, chair of the Airfields Working Group within the All-Party Parliament Group on General Aviation (AAPG-GA), spoke to the council meeting objecting to the plans, saying it was unclear from the proposals whether general aviation use would continue, and that the loss six hangars would have a great detrimental impact on the general aviation use of Retford Gamston Airport, among other points.

Mrs Jo Allen from DEA Aviation, an aviation company based at Retford Gamston Airport, spoke in favour of the application saying the proposals would provide employment and training programmes for people who wish to get into aviation, and that DEA Aviation has established a good working relationship with Thatcham Research and is well positioned to support them with robust operational procedures.

Thatcham Gamston
Among the car tech being tested by Thatcham is driverless cars. Image: Thatcham Research

Thatcham Research boss, Mr Jonathan Hewett, said the purpose of this proposal would be to use Retford Gamston Airport’s facilities to research the safety of automated vehicles and self-driving cars, providing vital safety assurance for this technology.

Mr Hewett also said the proposals were fully endorsed by the CAA and would protect the status of Retford Gamston as a commercial and private airport.

NOTE: The above statement, taken from the Bassetlaw Council planning committee meeting minutes, is incorrect according to Thatcham Research.

What Jonathan Hewett actually said was,  “Aviation will continue at the site, and we are committed to maintaining a licensed runway and providing storage for aircraft. The Statutory consultee, the CAA and the CAA’s Planning Advisory Team have already said dual operations can work and developing the means to deliver this will be a priority.”

A statement on Thatcham’s website says, ”Aviation will continue at Retford Gamston Airport and we will work collaboratively with all stakeholders. By investing in the site, we will provide commercial stability and protect it from other types of development.”

The planning permission granted is subject to a Section 106 Agreement/Unilateral Undertaking under which Gamston Aviation Limited will be obliged to meet certain requirements, mainly relating to the safe operation/dual use of the facility.

Retford-Gamston Airport
Thatcham Research



  1. The beginning of the end for Gamston then. How many aircraft in those 6 very large hangars, 30 or 40 at least. Where will they all go. And with the car texting using the existing taxiways, no doubt many restrictions and complications for residents of the other hangars. They could have just built the test track and buildings for Thatcham’s operation on the other side of the runway, loads of room.
    I guess DEA are happy because it gives them much more exclusive use of the airfield, get rid of all those nuisance light aircraft. But when will the owners decide it’s now unviable and kick them out too and then get on with the master plan of building houses.

  2. With Thatcham taking 6 of the hangers that will leave a lot of aircraft out in the weather there are 90 aircraft based here my aircraft included there has been no mention of what will happen to them currently Gamston has to give three months notice to leave as with a aircraft leaving it would be nice if Thatcham contacted all the owners to give us first hand information instead of second hand from Gamston aviation as they will want the sale to go through without any problems from pilots and owners so comments and information might be made to pacify the residents which are untrue and not inline with Thatcham plans

  3. There are so many disused airfield around with ample tarmac. The DfT and Government really need to put their courage where their mouth is and change the planning laws.

  4. Like DEA, I too would like to take a positive out of this situation but cannot find anything that I honestly believe will help GA at Gamston in any way.
    This little airfield has been the home of our aircraft for many years now, and is one of the friendliest airfields you will find in the UK. All I can say is its been great guys because unlike the CAA stating they will protect the status of the airfield, we all know how the planning system works and once they get a foothold, these plans will morph into whatever Thatcham want.

  5. Mr Hewett is not correct. The CAA has not ‘fully endorsed’ this. The CAA (International)’ Airfield Advisory Team said that it could be acceptable if the correct operational and safety measures are put in place. Nothing has been agreed with the CAA as regulator.

    At present, Thatcham has not given any details at all on how the site might accommodate dual use. The other airfields where there is dual use give priority to aviation, have set hours of operation etc.

    Comments about loss of hangarage are correct and the knock on effects of loss of hangarage income, loss of landing fees……?

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