Campaign Week 9: Businesses confident of a legal victory
“We’re not stopping flying here” was the message from organisations at Wellesbourne Airfield this week, in a battle cry aimed at those planning to develop the site into housing.
During a meeting on Tuesday, members of Wellesbourne Matters, the group leading the legal challenge to the redevelopment plan, reiterated their confidence in beating the proposal.
Airfield owners, the Littler Family, have previously expressed their desire to sell the site to a housing developer and in 2014 Gladman Developments put forward a plan to build up to 1,500 houses on the Airfield.
Duncan MacKillop, chairman of Wellesbourne Matters, explained that he was confident that the local authority would reiterate its view in the core strategy that Long Marston Airfield and not Wellebourne Airfield, was its preferred site for housing.
He said the group’s approach, based on legal arguments, rather than emotional ones, was proving successful and said the evidence against developing the site into housing was huge.
Mr MacKillop said: “Gladman are specialists in getting planning permission for contentious sites. We have the support of the local authority and we confidently expect to still be flying from Wellesbourne in 20 years’ time. At the moment everything is going our way, but that doesn’t mean the developer won’t try to do something out of leftfield.”
Sean Brown, managing director of Heli Air and chair of the meeting, said the letters issued late last year telling businesses that flying activities at the airfield would cease after December 24, were untrue and a scare tactic.
Mr Brown said: “They have a very weak case, we are lucky that we have got a specialist firm working for us that has experience of these kind of battles to preserve active airfields. Radarmoor has been told to leave the airfield at the end of the year and the airfield licence will not be renewed, but we have 15 year leases, after December 24, those leases will simply revert to the Littlers as opposed to Radarmoor and as tenants we are entitled to have an operating airfield. We are in a strong position because we know our legal rights.”
“All the developers have really done at this stage is scare tactics and bullying, the businesses have not been served with eviction notices. On December 25 if Radarmoor no longer ceases to exist, we will continue running as an unlicensed airfield. Far from being a dying airfield, Wellesbourne is a thriving, active place and it is not a foregone conclusion that the developers are going to get their way.
“Flying is not just a pursuit of the rich, there are all sorts of people who come here, eat in the café or take one of the 5,000 pleasure flights we provide each year.”
Mr Brown criticised other businesses within the aviation industry who he said had touted their services to airfield users and had suggested the closure of the airfield was inevitable.
Frankie Stuart, who works in the tower at Wellesbourne Airfield, added: “We want to be an example to other airfields across the country that it can be done, you can beat these threats, you just need to go down the legal route. It’s not impossible. I should say that Mike Littler is an amazing airfield manager, he is an engineer by trade and has such an enthusiasm for aviation and supports everyone on the airfield. He is stuck in the middle of all this, but he does run a great airfield.”