Shock as Wellesbourne Airfield demolition plan is revealed

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WELLESBOURNE Airfield is facing the prospect of imminent closure because the landowners have decided to demolish a large number of buildings on the site.

The shock news is a major blow to businesses at the airfield who’ve been waging a major campaign – supported by the Herald – to avoid being thrown off the site when the leases expire on Christmas Eve.

It is also especially embarrassing for Stratford District Council because the authority has given repeated pledges to preserve the location for aviation purposes.

But it was via the council itself that the landowners, the Littler family, have been able to override the authority’s policy by putting in an application – known as a Section 80 notice – to carry out the demolition and getting the application accepted.

However, the district council was quick to point out last Wednesday that a number of conditions needed to be complied with before demolition work could begin, involving health and safety and, where necessary, planning approval.

Despite these reservations there was deep gloom among the airfield campaigners last week. They were jubilant to discover in the summer that the airfield had been excluded from the council’s core strategy for housing development. (Originally the Littler family had wanted to sell off the airfield for major house-building, but this proposal got nowhere.)

Nevertheless, the intention not to renew the leases still stood – and is currently the subject of a legal challenge. The last thing the campaigners had expected was for the landowners to exploit building regulations – via the council that had persistently blocked their housing proposals – in order to remove the businesses there and close down the airfield.

Rodney Galiffe, the chairman of the South Warwickshire Flying School, which is based at the airfield, told the Herald yesterday: “There is no protection for the tenants in this case. The landowners don’t even need to give a reason for the demolition.

He said he heard that demolition work was due to start in early January. “We would have to close down,” he said. “There’s nowhere we could go.”

He added: “It would be a loss not only to Stratford but to many surrounding areas – including Birmingham, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. We had not planned for this because we thought legal side over the leases was working its way through. It is very disappointing.”

Mr Galiffe was among some of the campaigners who met key councillors at Stratford District Council yesterday to discuss the latest shock developments. Cllr chris Saint (Cons, Shipston North, the leader of the council, was one of the councillors with whom they discussed the situation.

He said the council was investigating the situation. Last Wednesday, however, the council declined to comment on the meeting that had taken place earlier in the day.

Businesses at the airfield have been very shaken by the news. Mike Roberts, who owns Take Flight Aviation at the airfield, said: “We’re disappointed that even though they have no prospect of getting planning permission to build on the site, they are still intent on demolishing the businesses on the airfield, something that would lead to the loss of around 200 jobs.

“This would be a huge loss to the local economy. They seem determined to use every tactic available to them to destroy the airfield.

“Despite the fact that we have paid millions of pounds to the owners of the airfield over the years in rent and landing fees, they have said that if we are successful in getting the lease extended we will have to pay £10,000 in rent each month, twenty times what we are paying at the moment. It’s clear that they are just trying to dispose of us.

“I don’t think they would be permitted to do that, I believe it’s just a scare tactic.”

Derek Paddock, who co-founded the Wellesbourne Aviation Museum, said: “The Littlers own the airfield and it is up to them what they do with the land. It is definitely not what we want to see happen. It would be sad because building houses here would affect the historical significance of the site and of Wellesbourne.

“I think that if the buildings were demolished and the land was vacant it would give the housing developers a stronger argument in the future because nobody would want to see the site just sitting there going derelict.

“We have almost completed a refurbishment of the museum, we’ve spent a lot of money on it and all of this would be wasted if the airfield was to close.”

Nicky Mathews from Warwickshire Aviation Ltd, said: “The situation is looking grim at the moment, we’re all taking legal advice to see if there is anything we can do.

“It’s very frustrating that they are still pushing to build houses on the airfield despite the Core Strategy ruling out such a development.”

Bill Leary from Wellesbourne Matters said: “This is being looked at by our legal representatives but as far as we are concerned this has no impact on planning. This concerns landlords and tenants.”

Although the district council has set its face against housing development at the airfield – to the extent of issuing a pledge to fight for its continued use for aviation purposes – it still has to find land for 3,000 homes because of a requirement to provide “reserve sites” in the event of any of the core strategy projects falling by the wayside.

There is a risk that Wellesbourne Airfield could be included among these “reserve sites” – especially if properties at the location have been demolished to make it ripe for housing development.

What do you think about the potential demolition of buildings at Wellesbourne Airfield? let us know your thoughts by emailing news@stratford-herald.com

 

 

  • James

    Note to editor:

    Robert Galiffe = Rodney Galiffe

  • Roger Pickles

    This is very good news. I hope the Littler’s demolish the airfield and do something useful with the land. I would and indulge in my wealth. Good riddance.

    • Ernest Radley

      Shame on you. This airfield gives work and pleasure to many people from all over the region. This is in fact terrible news as greed and avarice will ride roughshod over anyone to get more wealth. You want spare land that really does nothing useful for the community…then build on all the private golf courses that seem to be everywhere, spread out over the countryside to allow a few privileged members to go for a useless walk around carefully manicured fairways.

      • Roger Pickles

        Shame on you for allowing unsilenced light aircraft buzzing around ruining the local environment. As said before, good riddance.

        • Richard Harrold

          The lack of silencing is actually a CAA policy (as it is with most aviation authorities around the world) as a safety measure, preventing a great many mid-air collisions. The closure of the airfield would devastate the regional economy and cause the scrapping of one of the best-preserved running Avro Vulcans still in existence.

          • Roger Pickles

            What moronic tosh. A safety measure when pilots wear headsets and jets are striving to be quieter.

          • Gareth Bryant

            I’m just guessing, Mr pickles, that the airfield was there long before you moved in. If you find it so offensive, move out. Don’t complain about things that have been there before you, you have no right. As already stated, there are many jobs and local businesses at risk here. Would your opinion be the same if you or you family had business interests on the airfield? Somehow I think not. Pompous selfish people never win.

          • Richard Harrold

            Headsets are for communication – they do not shut out all external sound. There’s also a big difference in size and sound between a Rotax 912 or a Lycoming O-360 and a Trent 900…

          • jolox

            Where does it say anything about the Vulcan being scrapped

          • BobCBob

            it doesn’t, just another moronic, ill-informed comment

          • Richard Harrold

            There’s no way of trucking a Vulcan out, and it can’t stay there if the airfield closes.

        • Maria Freeman

          I guess you never fly abroad ?

    • Mr Teapot

      What an incredibly small-minded comment. Well done to you!

    • VladTheLibrarian

      What a lovely person you are. A centre of employment, an open piece of countryside and you want it buldozed to carpet it in concrete. As others have said, it was there before you – you’re the one who should go if you don’t like it…

  • Maria Freeman

    Typical of the World today….everything revolves around money and greed. This airfield is a haven for the young lad I look after , who has autism…He will be devastated if it is closed down , he loves going there to watch the planes….

  • Robert Hodgson

    Strangely, general aviation airfields are not regarded as parts of national infrastructure, unlike roads and ports. As mere parcels of land, they are prey to destruction as soon as the private owner finds somnething more lucrative with which to replace aviation. At the moment, there is a government call to build huge numbers of houses and airfields are regarded as ‘brown field’ sites (although they are mainly open spaces with lots of green grass!), so planning permission for housing is easier. Private owners, being human, and therefore greedy and selfish, will only do what is in their narrow interests. To stop the complete removal of GA from the scene, and the training, employment and pleasure that go with it, government action to protect the few remaining airfields is needed. Without public support, don’t hold your breath. As always, those with the money hold all the cards, and two fingers to everyone else!

  • Centre Parting

    No problem with the fixed wings, although when the airfield was trying to get locals onside, many were not sticking to their flight paths and the required height.
    The choppers should have a separate planning category as they are highly irritating and relatively new.
    I will miss Spitfires and other ancient aircraft.

    You never know, if the cafe shuts( I hope it doesn’t) we won’t get all of those cyclists shouting early on Sunday mornings as they casually show no regard for the Highway Code.

    • Anonamouse

      Which part of the Highway Code would you be referring to then,maybe you can quote it.

      • Centre Parting

        never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.

        • Anonamouse

          Amazing thing Google – bet you couldn’t have quoted that before your post….

          • Centre Parting

            Not verbatim – but also basic manners don’t seem to be in the Highway Code? I do ride a bike at least twice a week.
            Doesn’t tell you that those Lycra shorts can make you sterile either.

  • Gill Courage

    Imagine the outcry if somebody tried to build on part of the M6. Motorways bring in no direct income, provide no direct employment – yet everyone agrees that they are necessary.
    As the saying goes – a mile of motorway takes you a mile but a mile of runway can take you anywhere. The noise footprint is relatively small, compared to a road, and most of the land is left as wildlife and flower heaven.

    There is also a strategic aspect. When Gloucestershire suffered dreadful floods quite recently, the airport was a centre for emergency work. People trained in safety and rescue were made available from the staff to help with water distribution. When the railway line into Cornwall was washed away the local population was bereft. The airport, that could have been used to fly in people and supplies and keep things going, was no longer operational because a greedy “owner” closed it down in hope of building.

    In an age where we understand that farmers should be compensated to look after the land and preserve it for the general good, airport owners are persecuted, council taxed heavily and refused permission to build the hangars they need to improve their businesses. A thought shift is required to recognise the smaller end of air travel as part of the general transport infrastructure of the country. And use it to benefit as many as possible.

  • milo

    Its up to the Land owners nobody else what they do with the land THEY own. Why don’t some of the business plug together an buy it off them if its that important. or just fly from Coventry?

  • Oh dear

    Hmm
    Milo ,200 jobs going, and a local amenity being lost, I think that does affect quite a lot of people, cant comment re Orbit as my own experience of them is limited to trying to rent a garage to no avail.
    Roger Pickles, I was going to state this is all about greed/avarice and no sense of community and social conscience – but thank you for making that point so eloquently. Nobody needs £25-40m (approx value re development), why not sell as an airfield (as thats what it is) for about £3-4m, more than enough to retire on and plan some Tax Evasion in their spare time rather than lining lawyers pockets! Also please confirm you have lived nearby since before the airfield was built, I’d hate people to think you were a NIMBY simpleton!

    My real bug is with SDC not effectively blocking the demolition (vandalism?) loophole albeit I suspect this was simply down to not being able to pay for the top lawyers – but why not do this?
    Emergency Listing
    In an emergency, the local planning authority can serve a temporary listed “building preservation notice”, if a building is in danger of demolition or alteration in such a way that might affect its historic character.[36] This remains in force for 6 months until the Secretary of State decides whether or not to formally list the building.

    Just a few thoughts

    • Roger Pickles

      £3-4m isn’t for a family especially if they retire early and enjoy a good life. You’re obviously of plebeian stock.

      • Oh dear

        Nope, wealthy South London Stock me, escaped to the countryside,
        £4m would give you a million for property and a £114K pa annuity – if you cant live on that you are obviously feeding a class A drug habit or paying for too many dodgy Thai holidays – is your real name Mr Glitter or maybe Littler?
        So personal insults aside, check your facts re retirement funding please.

        • Roger Pickles

          The extended Littler family sunshine. Keep up at the back.

          • Oh dear

            Wondered why I could hear ‘Duelling Banjos’….

        • BobCBob

          oh dear oh dear oh dear!!!!!!!!!!!!! yes 4m would be fine for one person. how do you know how many people are behind this. all the ideas, and no facts to back them up!!!!!!!!!!

          • Oh dear

            Aha but there’s wealth management and greed – different things.
            £2m is target for family of 4 to enjoy high standard of living but not excessive wants through a normal retirement cycle.
            If an extended family/group of hangers on/bastard offspring require more resources so be it.
            If it’s really a consortium, putting all eggs into one high risk retirement plan seems rather foolish – and probably driving the greed!!

          • BobCBob

            are a member of wellesbourne matters by any chance!

          • Oh dear

            Nope just an individual who prefers the existing local amenities and economy to another overdeveloped rural ghetto.No political or financial interests at stake for me. Just an opinion!

      • bungy

        are you the local nutcase insulting everyone arfe you not Oikles- Go seek help my friend it can be found . And leave Oh dear alone you big mouthed bully

    • BobCBob

      oh dear indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paul Catanach

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Setting aside any personal agenda the like of Roger Pickles may have can I suggest that he and the few others in favour of closure spend some time researching Panshanger? That airfield was several times smaller than Wellesbourne and of course had one or two noisy NIMBYs who moved in next to the airfield and then complained about aircraft flying overhead. Just as with Wellesbourne the owners evicted the flying school/club and closed the field, the NIMBYs got what they wanted.

    They are also getting something they DON’T want, 700+ new houses on the site some of which must be ‘affordable’. At a guess I’d say Wellesbourne is ten times larger than Panshanger so they could fit 7000 new houses there.

    You know what ‘affordable’ means Mr Pickles? “Proles” as you call them. With their inferior ways and screaming kids and clapped out old cars. All living on your doorstep and you asked for it. Close to the M40 and Stratford makes Wellesbourne a prime candidate for a large estate. I hope you’ve got off-street parking and private medical/dental cover because you’ll be needing it when that lot move in at the end of the road. Local infrastructure won’t be able to cope so you’ll have to fend for yourself.

    Of course local property prices will be affected. After all, who wants to live near an estate of 7000 new homes with 10-20% ‘affordable’ houses occupied by the untermensch and their offspring? Still, at least you’ll have shown those pilots, eh?

    As for the anti-airfield brigade at Panshanger, some of them are supporting reinstatement of the airfield so as to have fewer new houses on the site. Funny that.

    • VladTheLibrarian

      The voice of sanity…

    • milo

      Bring on the homes, with the rising population its pretty much inevitable that they are going go be needed. my biggest bug is expecting SDC to buy the land through a CPO and pissing public money up the wall.
      Why don’t the business club together and buy the land if it all that important!!!

      • Paul Catanach

        200 jobs at risk and that’s your response? Pretty callous. Thankfully Stratford Council have more heart and have blocked the development.

  • David

    Paul, your post is a little offensive to those of us who are having to live in squalid conditions in this country with our children because of the lack of social housing.
    10% of the new estate will be for social housing. This is a GOOD THING. We also need somewhere to live. I applaud the people of this area for having a social conscience and wanting to help with the housing crisis we have with people on benefits. We are humans too.

  • old_moaning
  • M Johnson

    A compulsory purchase order on Wellesbourne Airfield could be a very shrewd and cost effective move by the SDC. People need to realise that there is much more at stake than just the future of the airfield and businesses that are based there, this will be a test by developers to see if it’s possible to overrule the councils core plan and the government inspectors report and findings.

    If the development company is allowed to drive a coach and horses through the core plan it will open the doors for dozens of similar developments all over the county, at some point the council will need to take a stand and this way they get to own an asset instead of spending millions in the courts. The airfield already produces substantial profits and the land could be developed whilst retaining its use as an airfield, the businesses on the airfield pay rent and rates and any aircraft that lands pays a landing fee.

    The site is also used by the Wellesbourne market but this area is vacant for the rest of the week, it could be used for other uses including exhibitions, a site for major incident training and many other social uses.

    It makes sense to buy it on so many levels, ultimately it won’t cost the SDC a penny and it will probably become a source of much needed income.