Landowners break their silence on Wellesbourne Airfield
Following Stratford District Council's decision last week to legally block the demolition of Wellesbourne Airfield, the Smith Partnership, acting on behalf of the landowners Littler Investments, released the following statement.
“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 subtenant’s 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.
“We have always been keen to adopt a fair approach with regard to the tenants of Wellesbourne Airfield, and have provided as much advance warning as possible to enable these tenants to plan for the future, so it is disappointing that our approach towards our own land has been negatively portrayed.
“We appreciate that the need to find new premises may not be the outcome the current tenants wanted and this will be decided by the court in due course. However, arrangements have been put in place to enable the airfield to continue operating in the meantime.
Response to Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s decision on Compulsory Purchase and permitted development rights
“The landowners were surprised to learn of Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s decision to enter into the Compulsory Purchase process and to deny the site its permitted development rights. Littler Investments have not yet been formally notified by the Council of the decision. As such, they will make more detailed comments in due course.
“We were surprised to learn of Stratford-on-Avon Council’s decision to enter a process by which a substantial amount of Stratford-on-Avon taxpayers’ money could be spent to purchase the site. We were particularly surprised given the constructive engagement between ourselves and Stratford-on-Avon Council in meetings about the site’s long term future as recent as November.
“The Council’s stated objective seems to be preservation of jobs. Yet jobs would only be lost if existing businesses cannot relocate, and we have done everything to provide sufficient notice to allow them to do so. The previous redevelopment proposals would have seen more than 800 full-time-equivalent jobs generated at the site, while the figures variously quoted for existing employment are firstly, significantly lower in comparison; and secondly, potentially inflated as many existing jobs are not full time.
“At a time when councils’ resources are stretched, is this the best use of public money?”
“The current matters between the landlord and tenants are separate to the site’s planning status.
“The entitlements of the tenants are a matter for the court to consider; any future development of the site is a matter to be considered and approved through the planning process.
"The landowners are aware of the Council’s planning policies relating to the site and are considering the site’s long term future in this context.
“Indeed the owners were pleased to accept the Council’s recent invitation to a meeting at which Councillors and Officers explained how they considered the site could be developed, in line with their adopted Local Plan policies.
“The landowners have committed to carefully consider the Council’s suggestions and meet again with the Council at a future date.”
Littler investments said the rental figures they are proposing for the businesses if their leases are extended have been misinterpreted and the amount stated to businesses would be an annual figure not a monthly one. They added that it would be up to the court to decide the terms of any new leases if it rules that the businesses are entitled to remain.