Local campaigners and trade unions are staging a march to protest against the closure of Filton Airfield on Saturday (18th February).
The airfield is due to close by the end of the year, after owners BAE Systems declared it “unviable” in April last year.
Following that announcement, South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) revised its proposed Core Strategy (the planning blueprint for 2012-2017) to allow an additional 3,950 homes to be built on and around the airfield.
The SFA says the building of so many new homes would add to congestion in the area and claims the inclusion of this development into the Core Strategy is “deeply flawed as it jeopardises the future potential for aerospace and aviation in the North Fringe”.
Opinions on the airfield closure have tended to split along party lines, although there have been some exceptions – notably the conservative-run Bradley Stoke Town Council, which voted at its July 2011 Planning Committee meeting to “encourage all stakeholders … to act to preserve this important part of Bristol’s heritage”.
A few weeks later, in August 2011, Bradley Stoke Mayor Cllr Ben Walker seemed to back track on the committee’s decision, saying in a letter to the Evening Post that local Conservatives would fight for the land to be used to create local jobs and desperately needed local housing.
A crucial debate at South Gloucestershire Council’s Full Council meeting in December last year saw Cllr Walker abstain from a vote on a proposed amendment to the Core Strategy that would have seen the land’s designation as an airfield retained.
SFA spokesperson Bert Hindle commented:
“When we initially approached councillors from around the area for support, Cllr Walker was one of many councillors (from all political parties) who had offered us support for our campaign.”
“Seemingly it is something he feels strongly about as he was the only Conservative councillor who broke ranks when it came to the vote on the motion on the airfield at the full SGC meeting in December, even if it was an abstention.”
“It was a shame that he didn’t stand up and speak his mind, but it gives the impression that pressure was brought to bear on many councillors.”
Cllr Ed Rose, another Bradley Stoke Town Councillor who spoke at the December meeting, also won praise from Mr Hindle:
“Cllr Rose’s excellent work in researching government defence R&D contracts that are up for tender – but for which there has been seemingly interest from BAE or indeed Airbus at Filton – highlights the general apathy that is being shown towards the skills that the local aerospace sector should be bringing to the table.”
“Sadly, work cannot be won locally when there is more interest in selling off the airfield for its land-value than investing in long-term manufacturing.”
“Even more worrying is that SGC are seemingly happy to write these events off as “commercial decisions” rather than provide encouragement.”
“Only today, the local government of Saxony, Germany, has signed a deal to undertake a long term programme of converting A330 passenger jets to freight aircraft in Dresden. Isn’t that exactly the sort of work Filton should be working for?”
Related link: Minutes of the December 2011 SGC Full Council meeting [PDF]
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