The proposed closure of the historic Filton Airfield by the end of 2012 is to be discussed at a public meeting this Monday evening (19th September) at the Filton Community Centre, Elm Park, Filton, commencing at 7pm.
The Journal understands that the meeting will be attended by Andrew Cheesman of BAE Aviation Services, South Gloucestershire Council’s Chief Executive Amanda Deeks, Jack Lopresti MP and several South Gloucestershire and Bristol Councillors.
Also attending will be representatives of the Save Filton Airfield campaign group, whose spokesman Martin Farmer said:
“We understand that BAE Systems, as a global defence company has little interest in Bristol except for selling Filton Airfield and putting the proceeds from the sale straight to its bottom line”
He went onto add:
“At the public meeting we will be calling on South Gloucestershire Council that we as local stakeholders should not be drawn into the sense of urgency being created by BAE Systems. The Council should retain the protected airfield planning status while a full, independent, business study should be created into the future viability of the airfield.”
Bradley Stoke Councillors divided over Filton Airfield closure
Bradley Stoke Mayor Ben Walker appears to have reversed his stance on the issue since being part of a unanimous vote at the Town Council’s July Planning Committee meeting to retain the airfield’s protected status.
At that meeting, Councillors were asked to consider three options presented in South Gloucestershire Council’s [SGC’s] Position Statement on Filton Airfield [PDF, 5.25MB].
Following discussion, Cllr Tom Aditya proposed that the Town Council response be:
“Bradley Stoke Town Council is against Option 1 of the proposals [to remove the wording in the Core Strategy which refers to safeguarding the operational use of the Airfield] and regrets the decision made to close Filton Airfield. Councillors would encourage all stakeholders, in co-operation with MoD, local councils and other relevant authorities to act to preserve this important part of Bristol’s heritage.”
The South Gloucestershire Labour Party echoed the views of Bradley Stoke’s Conservative-run Town Council when it announced on 12th August:
“We do not accept that the airfield should be developed and we have made this position crystal clear in our submission to the [SGC] consultation.”
Two days later, a letter signed by Bradley Stoke Town Cllrs BenWalker and Brian Hopkinson published in the Bristol Evening Post accused Labour of “playing cynical politics”, the Mayor now saying that local Conservatives would fight for the land to be used to create local jobs and desperately needed local housing.
The Mayor’s volte-face elicited the following comment from South Gloucestershire Labour Councillor Ian Boulton, who stood as a candidate in the 2010 General election for the Filton and Bradley Stoke seat:
“As a result of the meeting on 27th July 2011, Bradley Stoke Town Council submitted a formal contribution to the consultation process which strongly echoed the minutes which are a matter of public record. Because of this the Save Filton Airfield campaign believed, in good faith, that there was some cross party support to save the airfield. I am at a loss to understand why the Conservative Party seems to be back tracking and is trying to make this important issue party political.”
“I believe that the airfield continues to enjoy the support of many local Conservatives. We hope that everyone who supports this campaign will overcome petty party politics and write to firstname.lastname@example.org and explain why the world renowned home of the British aerospace industry needs a runway”
The Conservative position was later reinforced in a 6th September press release from Jack Lopresti MP, which stated that “there is no need for an airstrip at Filton“.
Although party lines are now clearly drawn, there remain a few rebels who refuse to conform. Bradley Stoke’s Cllr Tom Aditya (Conservative) says he is still in favour in retaining an operational airfield, while Patchway’s Cllr Dave Tiley (Labour) describes himself as a “realist” who recognises that “a clear majority don’t want an airport that would save this airfield.”
About the Save Filton Airfield Group
The Save Filton Airfield campaign was born when a large number of people decided that to close Filton Airfield in order to build housing was short sighted. People from all walks of life and political persuasion, including local residents, pilots and engineers came together in order to keep Filton Airfield flying. The campaign is actively supported by councillors from South Gloucestershire Council, Patchway Town Council, Filton Town Council and Oldland Parish Council.
As well as commenting on SGC’s Filton Airfiled Position Statement, the group also made a submission to Bristol City Council’s meeting concerning Filton Airfield on Tuesday 6th September. The group has asked Bristol City Council to work with South Gloucestershire Council to proactively campaign to win new aerospace business at the airfield.
Related link: Filton Airfield (South Glos Post)
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