WELLESBOURNE AIRFIELD IS NOT SAFE YET!
The future of GA has potentially just been undermined!
Wellesbourne Airfield is one of the busiest General Aviation Airports in the country with over 70,000 movements every year. If you’re an Aviator, work at an airfield or associated business, have aspirations of becoming a pilot or in fact rent a property thinking you had rights under the 1954 Landlord & Tenant Act this news may well shock you.
Wellesbourne like many other airfields is under threat from developers but unlike some other airfields Wellesbourne is lucky to have the support of the Local Authority - Stratford on Avon District Council. . . .
Under the local plan known as “The Core Strategy” the councils plan says it wants to:- “retain and support the enhancement of the established flying function and aviation related facilities at Wellesbourne airfield”
This is the plan that’s been adopted by the local government and approved by the Governments Planning Inspector.
Pretty clear don’t you think?
The local authority even went so far as to remove the Landlords permitted development rights meaning they could not demolish buildings or the airfield without planning consent.
Then we have the Neighbourhood plan which has been recommended for approval by independent examination says...
"The retention of the flying function activities at Wellesbourne Airfield is supported. The role of the airfield must take into account of, and safeguard the needs of the associated business, leisure and training activities and enable them to grow."
Again pretty clear don’t you think?
The airfields is also listed as a non-designated Heritage asset. This means whilst it doesn’t ban future development the local authority needs to take into account desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of the airfield. The local authority is already very clear on this, but it adds another layer of protection (or so we thought).
Then of course Governments National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Whilst we may understand the housing shortage building houses shouldn’t be at the cost to airfields, airports, training, jobs and enterprise.
The latest NPPF version reads that planning policies should...
“recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation facilities – taking into account their economic value in serving business, leisure, training and emergency services needs and the Governments General Aviation Strategy."
The Governments General Aviation Strategy in short is that their declared vision is
“to make the UK the best place in world for GA”
Wow so there you have it. We’re all safe. Well unfortunately not!
On Monday 25th June 2018 District Judge Richard Hayden Williams at the Birmingham County Court denied the business tenants at Wellesbourne airfield the possibility of renewing their business leases on the basis that the Landlords had a “reasonable prospect” of gaining planning permission to demolish the buildings the tenants occupy.
This seems to contrary to every piece of local and national planning policy. It also has little regard to the spirit of the Landlord and Tenant Act which should offer protection to lease holders. It also defies common sense!
It appears that this sets a precedent that any landlord may simply end a lease on the basis he or she has a “reasonable prospect” of gaining planning permission to demolish a building or site that a tenant occupies. They don’t have to actually demolish or even make a planning application they simply have to prove they have a reasonable prospect of being able to achieve this and a settled intention to carry out the works, even if it is purely designed to get rid of the tenant. Of course once they have succeeded in ending the tenancy they no longer need to carry out the work! A Supreme court appeal may change that view later in 2018.
So what is a "reasonable prospect" you may well ask? Well according to the Judge “the words speak for themselves”.
Incredulous! A whole community of General Aviation at one of the countries busiest aerodromes wiped out on the basis of two words than apparently speak for themselves? Every tenant in the country may need to look at their potential lease renewal under the Landlord & Tenant act in a new light.
So what happens next?
Some of the seven tenants businesses at Wellesbourne may fold with legal fees and associated expert fees already well in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.
So what can we do?
We have asked the local authority to help. They have already said they will consider a CPO - compulsory purchase order on the airfield, if the tenants were to lose the rights to renew their leases. We did!
On 2nd July 2018 - Cllr Tony Jefferson, Leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council said: “Wellesbourne Airfield is an important facility within Stratford-on-Avon District. There is a clear policy position under the District Council’s adopted Core Strategy 2011-2031 that the site be preserved for aviation purposes. The actions of Littler Investments Limited in terminating the leases of businesses operating on the site; wishing to demolish existing buildings on the site and the agreements with Gladman Developments Limited are all in direct opposition to this policy position. The District Council has now decided to use its Compulsory Purchase Order powers in order to maintain the current planning use of the site.”
We are also launching a legal appeal. The CPO process is a long one and we need to protect our lease rights in the meantime but this costs money and we’re hoping that you can help by making a donation and by passing this message on to your friends.
These donations will help fund the legal costs to launch an appeal on behalf of ALL the current businesses at Wellesbourne Airfield. This case doesn't just affect Wellesbourne Airfield but the future of General Aviation.
Please help! Here's what all the businesses at Wellesbourne Airfield think. Don't forget to add you own comment after donating. Thank you.
Mike Roberts - Take Flight Aviation MD
“The flying schools here at Wellesbourne train RAF cadets, offer scholarships and apprenticeships as well as local school, college and community group visits, promoting STEM skills (Science, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics) to the wider community” says Take Flight Aviation MD Mike Roberts whose company won Small Business of the Year in 2017 in recognition of its work in the local community. “This isn’t just about a few private pilots and aircraft owners but the future of aviation”
Alan Newton - MD On-Track Aviation Limited
"We moved to Wellesbourne because the airfield offered a great location and excellent facilities. It has grown over the years into the best General Aviation airfield which was recognised in 2015 when the airfield won the AOPA (UK) Best Aerodrome Award. We can not afford to let Wellesbourne become just another housing estate when it clearly attracts many visitors and hosts the best aviation businesses in the West Midlands. On Track offers a central location for Instructor and Examiner training and assessment as well as IR and class ratings and is an integral part of UK GA. Help fight for our home, Wellesbourne Airfield, by supporting the appeal."
Richard Packe - MD HeliAir
As the Head Office of HeliAir Limited and its parent company British Europeon Aviation Ltd, Wellesbourne Airfield is an integral part of our UK wide operation. As our Midlands base HeliAir trains future helicopter pilots, provides scholarships, engineer training and aviation operations training. Not only that but our business employs these engineers and pilots at our Wellesbourne operation. We need to work together to do all we can to keep Wellesbourne airfield open for future generations of aviators.
Hana Smiddy - Take Flight Aviation Marketing Director
“Take Flight are always looking to the future of aviation and work closely with young adults looking to gain work experience. We believe exposure into the workplace is so important. The opportunity enables young adults to learn and develop key work and employability skills which will enhance their transition into further education & employment, and to further stand them apart from other candidates. Three of our young operations staff have gone on to work for British Airways and Flybe and two more into full time employment in aircraft engineering, another went to train as an air traffic controller, whilst other staff and members have gained a private pilots licence with us as their first step to their dream career as commercial pilots.”
Matthew Timms – The Touchdown Café
“Wellesbourne Airfield is part of our national heritage; this world war 2 Airfield holds memories of our brave British and Canadian aviators. It’s location, size and popularity make it the central hub of British general aviation. Its accessibility makes it truly the very best example of a grass roots aerodrome providing our young aspiring pilots with the perfect environment in which to acquire the skills, instruction and experience needed to feed our country’s future general and civil aviation needs. Great Britain cannot afford to lose this Airfield to housing, we cannot replace this vital part of our general aviation infrastructure.
It has been the Touchdown Cafes privilege to serve the local community and nations aviation community for the past 18 years. 100% of the business based at Wellesbourne Airfield are working together and are absolutely committed to save this vital, irreplaceable part of national Infrastructure.”
Alex Chance – Trainee Aircraft Engineer Warwickshire Aviation
Alex Chance who works as a trainee Aircraft Engineer at Warwickshire Aviation at the airfield says “I’ve been coming to the airfield since I was a baby when my grandparents used to bring me here to watch the planes” Alex achieved his Private Pilots Licence under an Apprenticeship scheme at Take Flight Aviation where he also achieved the local title of ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in a much-contested local award ceremony between candidates from many major local industries.
Nicky Mathews - Director Warwickshire Aviation Limited
“We are facing the destruction of many businesses and livelihoods and most importantly a vital piece of Aviation history is being lost for ever that future generation will not be able to enjoy or achieve their ambitions”.
Graham Ruscoe – FlyWelle Limited
“Flywelle Limited is a small business we have fought this fight for three years and severe personal and financial cost. I believe the judge has been misled and made a huge error in his judgement so we’re hoping to challenge this obvious injustice.” “We feel that there is huge potential for the airfield but we understand the Landlords have refused to enter in negotiations with the council for development of the site retaining the flying function as they have refused to meet with the tenants.”
Rodney Galiffe – Principal South Warwickshire Flying School
“Wellesbourne Mountford Aerodrome was opened as a civil aerodrome on the 13th March 1981 by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who officially opened the aerodrome by flying in piloting an Andover of the Queens Flight. South Warwickshire Flying School was subsequently formed in 1982”
“The School commenced training Air Cadets sponsored by all three Services and continues to do so today through the Air League and the Royal Air Force Association. To date over 1700 cadets pilots alone have learnt to fly and attain their wings with us at Wellesbourne Mountford Aerodrome. A sizable majority of these young men and women have successfully entered a flying aircrew profession in all three Services and many more have qualified as civil commercial pilots. Our School maintains a close partnership with Wellesbourne Mountford and the neighbouring villages, where all cadets and pilots reside whilst training for their respective licences or ratings.”
“Alongside the Clubhouse and sharing an apron with the fleet is Avro Vulcan XM655, whose maintenance preservation group have a close relationship with the School. We endeavour to support the team in their great effort of her preservation”. “If Wellesbourne Mountford is allowed to close I fear that potentially any airport could follow. We have been loyal tenants and the Landlords attitude is most disappointing given the unexplored potential of the airfield”