CAMPAIGN LATEST: Businesses react as council steps in to halt airfield demolition plans

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Businesses fighting to save Wellesbourne Airfield were handed a boost by Stratford-on-Avon District Council today after it acted to prevent the landowner from demolishing buildings on the site.

During this morning’s cabinet meeting, councillors opted to remove permitted development rights at the airfield with immediate effect.

Until the meeting Littler Investments would have been able to put in what is known as a Section 80 notice, to carry out such works.

The owners warned businesses of their intention undertake demolition works at the airfield late last month, though the council’s decision today has put a stop to any such action.

The cabinet also decided to seek powers to compulsorily purchase the airfield if negotiations with the owners fail and to obtain an injunction if any attempt is made to start the demolition process.

Businesses are currently in the middle of a legal challenge to get their leases at the airfield extended, but have been warned by the landowners that they face huge rent increases if they are successful.

Reacting to today’s decision Matt Timms, who runs the Touchdown Café at Wellesbourne Airfield, said: “Everybody at the airfield is just so relieved about this decision and really happy that the council is showing us so much support. This allows us to go to court about the leases and not worry about them demolishing the buildings.”

Mike Roberts, who runs take Flight Aviation at Wellesbourne, said: “We’re delighted by the news that the council are being so supportive of the airfield, they’ve dealt with this fantastically. It’s a great bit of news to get, especially at this time of year, and it gives us some much needed security as a business.”

Frankie Stuart, secretary of Wellesbourne Matters, said: “I’m so happy, I’m just full of praise for the council, a lot of people run down local government but they’ve been fantastic. lets face it they worked very hard on the Core Strategy, they weren’t going to see somebody crash through it and totally ignore it, that would make them look ineffective.”

The Littler family and developers Gladman are believed to be furious that their proposals to close down the airfield and build 1,500 homes on the land has been repeatedly rejected at every level – including that of the planning inspectorate.

Given that the airfield has been refused classification as a development site in the council’s core strategy, there is deep concern that the owners now want to render the site unusable for aviation purposes by wrecking it.

Earlier this month a group of pilots and flying enthusiasts at Wellesbourne, who call themselves Landed Aviation, launched an online petition calling for the airfield to be saved.

To view the petition, which has already been signed by more than 3,000 people, visit https://www.change.org/p/stratford-district-council-save-welllesbourne-airfield-from-demolition

For a full report and reaction see this week’s Herald.

  • Roger Pickles

    I’m with the Littler’s. Bulldoze the airfield and redevelop it, and my council tax is not to subsidise rich aviators.

    • VladTheLibrarian

      Wellesbourne Airfield will continue operating until further notice.
      That’s the sort-of-good news from the Littler family which owns the
      airfield. They have agreed to keep the airfield operating while a
      dispute over leases is determined by the courts.

      This follows the local Stratford District Council stopping a move to
      demolish buildings on the airfield earlier this week. The council also
      threatened to compulsory purchase the airfield if an agreement on its
      future could not be agreed.

      The Littler family issued this statement through a firm of solicitors:

      “Littler Investments have always desired to adopt a fair approach
      with regard to the tenants of Wellesbourne Airfield, as they have sought
      to determine the future of their land.

      “As part of this approach, for the last 18 months the operators and
      owners of the airfield have kept the tenants informed of the situation,
      beginning in June 2015 when new, formal leases with beneficial terms
      were offered to tenants.

      “After none of the businesses had chosen to take up this offer after
      six months, the owners decided not to renew the subtenants’ leases when
      the operator of the airport’s lease expires. In order to allow a
      substantial time period for the tenants’ businesses to find suitable
      alternative premises before the end of the lease, they informed tenants
      in December 2015 that the leases would expire 12 months later in
      December 2016.

      “Since then, tenants have formally applied to have their tenancies renewed.

      “There is now an ongoing legal process, by which a judge will decide whether the existing tenants are entitled to new tenancies.

      “The tenants have appointed legal advisors, who will no doubt have
      advised them both of the legal process and the potential outcomes.

      “The tenants, through their solicitors, have also asked for clarity
      as to whether they will be able to continue using the airfield for now,
      given the court process will take a few months to resolve.

      “Reflecting Littler Investments’ desire to adopt a fair approach,
      they have confirmed that arrangements will be put in place to enable the
      airfield to continue operating beyond the end of this year until
      further notice.

      “If the court determines that the tenants are entitled to remain, any
      new tenancies would be decided by the court in due course, rather than
      by the landowners, and these would reflect fair market rents.

      “As such, various figures published in the press are not recognised
      by the landowners. Similarly the landowners have been subject to a
      number of personal criticisms, which have questioned their motivations
      and conduct. In fact, the landowners have sought to keep tenants
      informed of the situation at all times, and continue to seek positive
      engagement.”

      • milo

        so its the business that got themselves into this mess not the land owners by not agreeing to a lease… hmmm the plot thickens!!

        • VladTheLibrarian

          Haha… You really think ALL the tenants were stupid enough not to sign the leases without good reason…??! The lawyers took one look and told them to refuse…

    • VladTheLibrarian

      You still here…??!

  • Leigh Holder

    It all bores down to money as usual the council did right to stop them demolishing buildings old mrs littler will be turning in her grave

  • James Wilby

    Roger, The businesses at the airport all will have been paying business rates for years to the council, not to mention the VAT and fuel duty paid for by the user of the airfield. Many of those learning to fly at the airport work hard to earn the money so they can train and others through their own merits win scholarships to follow their dream of flying – where do you expect pilots to train if we loose all our smaller airfields?

  • Fish Busines S

    Good News! Wellesbourne is an asset to the whole Midlands as the best airfield in the region. Both for training commercial pilots and recreational aviators alike.