Old Sarum Airfield may 'have no choice' but to bring back flying

Old Sarum Airfield may 'have no choice' but to bring back flying

Published by Faye Tryhorn at 11:17am 6th May 2020. (Updated at 5:43pm 6th May 2020)

4 minute read

The site's owners claim it could be the only way to provide 'long term economic viability' if a decision to refuse plans to build houses there isn't overturned.

A Judicial Review's starting today (Wednesday 6th May) into whether a decision by the Planning Inspectorate to throw out the housing scheme is lawful. 

Old Sarum Airfield's owners want to build 460 new homes on the side of the site closest to Ford village, despite opposition from local residents and heritage campaigners.

Old Sarum Airfield Southern Side
The houses were planned to be built on the Southern side of the airfield

Following the Planning Inspectorate decision, the Airfield closed to flying in October 2019.

The owners are now suggesting that operations could return, including some night flying.

A spokesperson for Old Sarum Airfield said:

"Our hope is that the Judicial Review will permit a way to be identified to allow the development to go ahead which will not only create much-needed new homes in accordance with the Core Strategy but will help to safeguard the Airfield's future as a quiet heritage amenity. 
 
"The Airfield has required substantial subsidies to enable it to remain open as a public facility, operating at the quiet and moderate operational levels that were agreed with the Council in 2007. 

"Under the current commercial operating model, if the development is not permitted, we will have no choice but to increase operations at the Airfield in order for it to provide long term economic viability which was surrendered in 2007 as a result of Council's request. Recouping the substantial losses will mean increasing fixed, rotary and training operations including night flying."

The Judicial Review is expected to take a number of days to complete.

Planes on landing strip runway at Old Sarum Airfield - plane aircraft (Mike Draper) (5)
The Airfield back when ahead of the closure last year

Maintaining the airfield and its hangars for operational use is exactly what many campaigners had hoped for.

Old Sarum Airfield was first established in 1917 and was one of the last World War One landing strips to still be operational.

The site's owners say they want to keep flying there: 

"The Airfield is part of the community. We employ local people and welcome visitors from Salisbury, Wiltshire and across the UK. We hope we can continue to operate at a moderate level without the need for increasing the types and volume of air traffic in the future."

Planes on landing strip runway at Old Sarum Airfield - plane aircraft (Mike Draper) (6)
The Airfield regularly saw planes taking off and landing at the site, but the owner's claim more a viable income stream is needed

Wiltshire Council has responded to the claims that the amount of flying had been restricted by them.

In a statement, they've told Spire FM News:

"There are no current planning restrictions on flights at the airfield. They could in planning terms increase flights at any time, subject to whatever rules and regulations there may be from the Civil Aviation Authority."

Since the Airfield closed, the only activity there has been by parachute jumping company GoSkydive, who signed a deal to remain there.

Some of the land has also been ploughed at the airfield, and the hangars have fallen into a poor state of repair, raising concerns from residents: 

'ANIMAL WELFARE FLIGHTS' STARTING UP

The owners of Old Sarum Airfield say some of the first flights to return to the site will 'support animal health checks' during the Covid-19 crisis.

The airfield's set to be used to help 'transport vets across the UK' to monitor the health of poultry, cows, sheep and pigs.

A spokesperson for Old Sarum Airfield said: 

"This work is a vital part in keeping the UK supply chain moving during the Covid-19 crisis and the owners of the airfield are delighted they can offer help to the nation during this unprecedented crisis."

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