Future of the Airfield

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Airfield Image_John Brady

The future of Haddenham Airfield seems to be following a pattern seen elsewhere so here are some thoughts and request for advice on what might be done by the community.

The recent Lands Improvement statement says there is an expression of interest from a commercial developer in last parcel of land in the business park presently occupied by the gliding club building and access to it. Lands Improvement needs the building to move; no problem with that but as you can see in the photograph, that does not affect the runway at all. The gliding club building could easily be moved to the other end of the strip away from development.

Lands Improvement goes on to say "Linked to this, Lands Improvement have taken the decision to return the airstrip land to agricultural use and this will be ploughed and a maize crop sown in April."

That is the nub of the matter. As it stands this is an active airfield covered by the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on page 10 where it says in relation to planning authorities:

"When planning for ports, airports and airfields that are not subject to a separate national policy statement, plans should take account of their growth and role in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs. Plans should take account of this Framework as well as the principles set out in the relevant national policy statements and the Government Framework for UK Aviation".

In addition, the airfield is used for gliding which is a sport recognised by Sport England who regard such airfields in the same category as playing fields and although they have no statutory status, Sport England can defend against their loss to the community.

So returning the airfield to agricultural use, as it was before 1936, is not linked to the industrial estate at all. Lands Improvement wants to stop this being an active airfield so that the NPPF provisions do not apply and it can then be developed completely without further hindrance and contrary to the assurances given about such development. Ploughing the runway and planting a crop of maize for a year would solve that issue for them.

Similar things have happened elsewhere. The landowner of Panshanger grass airfield near Hatfield gave the operators and businesses notice to quit and razed the buildings so the site could be sold for development contrary to the local plan and views of residents. Local MP Grant Shapps worked with the council to stop that and although the occupants were evicted and the airfield is not operating it is still there and supported by the planning authority; a campaign to reopen it is in progress. At Wellsbourne near Stratford, the owner also gave notice to quit for the same purpose but the local authority had already identified the airfield as being a unique asset to the community and told the owners that if they proceeded it would subject to compulsory purchase and retained as an airfield. It is still there and operating.

The proposed action by Lands Improvement is to demonstrate that this land is not an active airfield thus removing an obstacle to development of the whole area as a brown field, "former airfield" site. Could the gliding club find another site? Probably not. Should there be a campaign to support the gliding club involving the planning authority and our MP? Maybe but we would have to be led or at least guided by the Upward Bound Trust who know much more about this than we do and maybe they have a plan.

Would the Upward Bound Trust tell us what the community should do to support it?