Airfield campaign group appeals to councillors ahead of crucial meeting

Posted on Friday 9th December 2011 at 2:23 pm by SH (Editor)

A press release from the Save Filton Airfield Group in response to the decision by South Gloucestershire planners to include Filton Airfield as a strategic development location (for housing and employment) in the latest revision of their Core Strategy.

Save Filton Airfield Campaign Group

Monday 5th December 2011 was a sad day for Bristol as South Gloucestershire Council planners backed the termination of more than one hundred years of aviation development in this City.

Rather than supporting manufacturing and engineering in the region, the planners want up to 3,000 homes to be built on the Filton Airfield site. These homes will be in addition to 2,000 new homes at Harry Stoke, 1,700 at Charlton Hayes, and 1,750 at Cribbs Causeway/Patchway. This brings the number of planned homes in this small, already congested area to over 8,000 – the size of Bradley Stoke.

Yesterday (5th December), on BBC Radio Bristol, Councillor Brian Allinson, Executive Member for Planning, Transportation and Strategic Environment stated:

“We are determined to ensure aerospace related industries get a priority for coming to the area”.

Air Livery left Filton in 2009, because, to quote their managing director:

“Effectively BAE were unable to give Air Livery a vision of how long the airfield would remain open. Consequently we had to make a decision in the interest of the business, as to the future.”

Aeros, a flight training organisation, wanted to invest in Filton and develop a commercial pilot training operation there. They were forced to pull out of Filton in 2011 because the airfield was closing.

Originally destined for Filton, A350 wing manufacture has moved to a new £400 million pound factory in North Wales. 650 workers will be employed at that factory.

This weekend, reports claim that A320 wing manufacture, planned for GKN at Filton, will instead go to South Korea – with the loss of 800 jobs.

British Airways are looking at St Athan as an extra maintenance base for their aircraft. They won’t be looking at Filton, because they need a runway.

Bruce Dickinson, of Iron Maiden fame, is a keen aviator and is looking at building an aviation business at St Athan. He won’t be looking at Filton because he needs a runway.

Fixed Based Operators (FBOs) such as Execujet are investing in British airfields. They won’t be looking at Filton, because they need runways.

We have also heard, from a number of sources that Dyson and Virgin were interested in using the Brabazon Hangar. But they would also need a runway.

Satellite view of Filton Airfield, Bristol

It is clear that the South Gloucestershire Council planners do not have the vision, courage or determination to attract aviation to Filton. They are not encouraging aviation as Brian Allinson suggests. They are instead signing Filton’s death certificate.

The planners’ process has been flawed and biased from the start. For example, they have held workshops with housing developers to look at the closure of the airfield. They have not held workshops with the aviation industry to look at keeping the airfield open, or even made any attempts to verify the level of interest in the airfield.

To justify their actions, South Gloucestershire Council planners commissioned a report from York Aviation. This report was completed in just two weeks. As a result of this short time frame, the report was considerably limited in its scope. Page 21, section 3.19 of the report says it all:

“It is outside the brief for this report to undertake an economic impact assessment of the aviation activity at Filton.”

Local MP, Jack Lopresti is also standing by. He is on record, along with his Conservative government as saying that we need aviation engineering and manufacturing to lead us into recovery. Yet, incredibly, he is supporting house building on Filton Airfield.

Jack Lopresti should be listening and representing the majority view of his constituents. Instead he has written articles trying to make the issue political, along with scaremongering stories of night flights and an international airport. He has accused campaigners for the airfield as being “led by outsiders”. His actions are those of a man who doesn’t support aviation in Filton at all.

The Save Filton Airfield campaign group would like to point out that we are not outsiders. Every single one of us lives within minutes of Filton. Many of us work at Rolls Royce, Airbus or GKN. Some of us are pilots who fly regularly from Filton, others are engineers. We are a non-political organisation, with support from people of all political backgrounds, and some who are fed up with politics, with good reason. We have never suggested night flying or an international airport at Filton.

Brian Allinson and Jack Lopresti can tell us they are determined to help aerospace at Filton until they are blue in the face. Their actions and the ongoing collapse of aviation at Filton, tells us all we need to know. Aviation around the world has a bright future. Sadly, after one hundred proud years, not at Filton.

Of course, Airbus and GKN can live without the airfield. It is easy for them. They will simply move manufacturing elsewhere, as they are clearly already doing. Not so good for us in the South West.

During the last few months we have received both informal and formal backing from Councillors from across the political spectrum. Next week these Councillors will have their first real opportunity to demonstrate that their words were not just hollow gestures.

There are numerous ways of saving the airfield and backing aviation at Filton. We could, for example, work together to see if the airfield can be purchased by a consortium and run as a mixed use airfield. We have a fully costed proposal that shows the airfield ought to make at least a £1 million profit, year on year. The risk is minimal, given the land’s value for housing. Not only would we show real commitment to our resident aerospace companies, we would attract new aviation businesses to the airfield as well.

We call on Councillors to think carefully before building houses on Filton Airfield. Why rush? Should we not be more careful and serious about promoting the aviation industry at Filton?

Once Filton Airfield is gone, it is gone forever.

Related link: Filton Airfield (Sout Glos Post)

Source: Save Filton Airfield Campaign Group

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