Old Sarum Airfield start legal proceedings against Wiltshire Council

Historic airfield issues writ against the local authority for breach of contract over airfield development plans

Salisbury’s historic Old Sarum Airfield has issued a writ against Wiltshire Council for breach of contract in relation to its plans to develop land adjacent to the airfield to secure its long term future.

The airfield owners had come to an agreement with Salisbury District Council (now Wiltshire Council) in 2007 to dramatically reduce flying movements in return for permission to develop some parts of their 100+ acres of land adjacent to the airfield – for housing, including unique “hangar homes”.

As part of the agreement, the airfield submitted a planning application in 2015 for a mixed-use heritage based development creating a flying hub with associated services as well as the RAeS National Collection of Aviation artefacts, a new heritage centre, visitor centre, restaurant, hangars, new control tower and 462 high quality homes.

From 2007 the airfield’s consultants had worked extensively with council officers and the planning department to bring forward an exemplar scheme which would not only have secured the long term financial viability of the airfield, but would also enable extensive repairs and preservation to all of the heritage assets as well as securing low levels of flying. The low levels of flying were a key point, due to the council granting planning permission for thousands of new homes to be built on land surrounding the airfield, homes that would suffer from increased flying noise levels and night flying. These plans (2007-2014) were seen and approved not only by senior officers but by both Local Inspectors with support from the Council.

In 2007 the airfield complied with the request from the council to reduce flying movements and eliminate noisy aircraft plus all night flying whilst they progressed their plans in collaboration with the local authority. This action caused large operational losses every year due to the reduction in flying required by the Council, all of which the airfield’s owners were prepared to “swallow” in order to save the future of the airfield via its development plans.

Now, with the planning appeal process exhausted, the loss making situation is unsustainable and Old Sarum Airfield will begin the return to pre-2007 levels of flying activity as a first step, including flight training, with the goal to eventually exceed 100,000 flight movements a year with hangar and other developments of the type now permitted by Westminster’s new planning policies.

Sadly, due to the large losses over so many years the airfield was forced to close to all flying operations last year and a return to a fully functional airfield with maximised revenues will be a step-by-step process, partly because of the current Covid-19 situation, but also because of operational infrastructure that needs to be put in place.
The owners of the airfield are also pursuing a multi-million damages claim against Phoenix Life in relation to one of the three WWI listed hangars, Hangar 3, which needs urgent work to repair it to bring it back into daily aviation use. This is a key objective of the airfield’s owners.

A spokesperson for Old Sarum Airfield said: “Back in 2007 we were invited to enter into a serious commitment with the Salisbury District Council to substantially reduce flight operations and in return the Council made an offer to work cooperatively with us to secure planning for a mixed development scheme. We did so in good faith, quickly reducing movements by 25,000. The agreement would have secured reduced noise for local residents while still keeping the airfield operational and securing its long term future through providing housing plus a host of other public benefits including the rebuilding of Hangar 3.

“Despite numerous assurances from senior members at the council, it became clear to us over time that once we had fulfilled our side of the agreement by reducing flying, the council had no intention of supporting the mutually agreed redevelopment plans. In addition to losing many millions of pounds through lost flying revenue we also invested £5 million over 13 years in bringing forward our development plans and planning application.

“This massive failure of the planning system is a poster child for the PM’s recent indictment and sadly means that we now have no option but to pursue the local authority for breach of contract. Old Sarum benefits from unlimited flying rights so we will now look at all options open to us to bring in flight training operations. In this way we will begin to rebuild our business and recoup the millions of pounds lost throughout this thirteen year saga.”

PLEASE NOTE: A full copy of the writ against Wiltshire Council is available on request.

Interviews with representatives from Old Sarum Airfield can also be arranged.

For further information contact:

Gary Squires or Vicky Windsor

Creatrix PR

07968 314289 or 07818 423679

gary@creatrixpr.co.uk or vicky@creatrixpr.co.uk