A SERIOUS accident – possibly a mid-air collision – has been predicted if the planned $5 million Ballarat Airport expansion goes ahead.

A group, People Against Airport Expansion, has been formed over concerns about safety, noise pollution, decreased property values and the loss of amenity since the Singapore Technologies Aerospace Training Academy began using the airport in 2007.

“Residents in areas surrounding Ballarat Airport have, since that time, been subjected to learner-piloted planes circling constantly at low altitudes over their homes and many have witnessed near mid-air collisions, as well as close encounters with tall trees and other non-training aircraft,” a PAAE spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Ballarat City Council’s Ballarat Airport Master Plan 2010-2030 is due for release by July, but PAAE fears it could result in a huge industrial complex being built around the aerodrome.

“Not only are there plans to bring increased air traffic ? 20,400 flights annually by 2014 ?but also proposed are a freight hub and a four-lane arterial road primarily to service the facility.”

Last November, PAAE submitted a petition containing more than 200 signatures to council and requesting changes to the master plan.

PAAE also warned that problems experienced by both Essendon and Moorabbin airports could occur in Ballarat too.

“The Essendon Airport Master Plan 2008-2013 emphasises the anticipated decline in activity at Essendon and the relocation of much of its current air traffic to several smaller airfields on Melbourne’s outskirts, and lists Ballarat as one of these.”

The spokesman said not enough consideration had been given to existing development, especially residential precincts.

“We suggest that before council approval is given for commercial development, residents should be provided with all the details, including the impact on their environment.

“Only then are they are able to make an informed decision as to whether or not such development have been publicised, with the ‘big picture’ yet to emerge.

In a letter to the PAAE, Ballarat City Council destinations and connections director Jeff Pulford said the master plan would look at future operational requirements, forecast aircraft activity, facility and infrastructure upgrade requirements, heritage issues, land use planning on airport land and development considerations for nearby land.