A MODEL aircraft club and a local authority have got into a dogfight over whether its members can fly their planes in a public park.

Blackburn with Darwen Council wants to ban the use of Pleasington Playing Fields by the aero-enthusiasts.

Chris Boardman, chairman of Blackburn and District Model Aircraft Club, has vowed to fight the prohibition and says officers have misunderstood the new regulations.

The ‘shocked’ enthusiasts have used the fields since 1938 but the borough now says their activities are not safe.

A council letter last month from head of leisure and sport Claire Ramwell said: “The UK adopted the EU regulations for model flying in 2019 and these came into effect on December 31, 2020.

“The council requested the legal department review these new guidelines to make an informed decision as to whether it was appropriate for the flying of model aircraft to continue at Pleasington Playing Fields.

“The council is aware that the club and non-club flyers have been operating for many years at Pleasington Playing Fields and are well organised.

“It is the council’s view that Pleasington is a very busy public space with a significant number of dog walkers, recreational walkers and sports being played there and that it would no longer be appropriate for the club to be based there.

“It is therefore with regret that, given the new guidance and legal advice, I am going to have to ask that the club cease flying activities at Pleasington and find a new facility away from the public with immediate effect.

“Some years ago the council wrote to you to advise that you look for another more suitable location. The council has an obligation to promote the safety of the residents of the borough.”

Mr Boardman said: “We were shocked and dismayed to receive this letter out of the blue with no prior consultation. We do not accept the council’s interpretation of the EU regulations. The council has clearly not looked into this new legislation properly if at all.

“The club is fighting this request with the full support of the British Model Flying Association and the Civil Aviation Authority.

“The club has searched for many years for a suitable alternative site but Pleasington continues to be the safest, most suitable, disabled accessible site in the borough.”

Martin Kelly, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s strategic director, said: “We understand the club will be disappointed by this decision.

“Whilst most model aircraft flights are likely to be harmless recreation, they do have the potential to present a serious danger to the public. 

“The council would quite rightly be held accountable if someone was seriously injured or worse.”

Livesey with Pleasington ward’s Cllr Derek Hardman said: “I wasn’t aware of this. I shall look into it.”

This not the first time the council has got involved in club affairs. In April 2014 it tried to ban enthusiast Michael Parkinson from flying his models at Pleasington after he was refused membership dropping the ban in 2017 after a three year battle.

He said: “This is sad. I cannot see a way out of it.”