Old Sarum Airfield suing Wiltshire County Council
PUBLISHED: 16:02 28 September 2020
Philip Whiteman 2020
The management of Old Sarum Airfield have started legal proceedings against Wiltshire County Council for breach of contract over airfield development plans
The airfield owners claim they had an agreement with Salisbury District Council (now Wiltshire Council) in 2007 to significantly reduce flying movements in return for permission to develop some parts of the more than one hundred acres of land adjacent to the airfield.
The development would be a housing development, and would include some unique ‘hangar homes’.
It is alleged that from 2007 the airfield’s consultants worked extensively with council officers and local planners on a scheme which would have secured the long term financial viability of the airfield.
The plan was also intended to enable extensive repairs to the heritage assets and ensure their preservation. In return for these planning considerations, the level of flying would be reduced.
“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,” said the airfield’s managers.
These plans (2007-2014) were seen and approved not only by senior officers but by both Local Inspectors with support from the Council.
However, it is reported that the planning development was not allowed to proceed as the management of Old Sarum Airfield expected.
A spokesperson for the airfield said: “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”.
The Save Old Sarum campaign group commented on the litigation by saying: “In our opinion, there is no acceptable development. Once you start encroaching on this unique Conservation Area, untouched by man in over a century, then it is lost forever.
“The site perimeter and grass airfield has remained unchanged since the airfield’s conception in 1917, and we believe any development on that site cannot be appropriate, sympathetic (as developers put it) or accepted.
“Once the rest of the UK has been built on, we’d like Old Sarum to stand out as the nationally-historic, untouched gem of an airfield it is.”