March to protest against closure of Filton Airfield

Satellite view of Filton Airfield, Bristol

Local campaigners and trade unions are staging a march to protest against the closure of Filton Airfield on Saturday (18th February).

The Save Filton Airfield (SFA) group and the Unite union are inviting demonstrators to join them on Golf Course Lane at 12pm (more details here in the Filton Journal).

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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  1. This campaign is a doomed Labour led publicity stunt. They dont want to save it, they are already planning the roads, houses and retail units for the airfield site. All fifteen Labour councillors who claim to support this cause, did not vote on the core strategy vote which would have stopped the building of houses on the airfield.
    They are playing with local emtions of voters which is the worst kind of politics.
    Just as bad is Filton MP Jack Lopresti who will turn up to every photo opportunity he can to feather his nest, but has snubbed this campaign because its run by Labour councillors on south glos.

  2. #labourstitchup that is the biggest load of cods wallop I have heard in a long time, the local Labour councillors have been stitched up by the ConDem SGC, they do not want houses and roads on the airfield, unlike Mr Lopresti who I believe has supported and been supported by the building conglomerates, they want to see Aircraft and aircraft parts and services, the areas around Filton were created to service the great British aerospace industry, it is all going to be torn down, so in the words of Soverign housing’s submission on the airfield, the waiting lists of Bristol, BNeS, SGC and north Somerset councils can be emptied when the new houses are built.

  3. Can we please make sure that the new houses are built like stacked rabbit hutches with inadequate parking spaces. Don’t forget to make sure there is also a shortage of facilities/schools/leisure.

    Can we also ensure we don’t do anything sensible like insist new houses are built with proper insulation and hot water and/or PV solar panels.

    It is awful to think that in the 21st Century North Bristol might be plagued with excessive open space with grass growing on it.

    If we don’t make these important decisions those poor developers and their elected mates might miss out on some cash.

    Thank you.

  4. @Labourstitch:

    As someone who has been involved with the airfield campaign from the beginning, I can say that whilst we have been very grateful for the support of Labour councillors from around South Gloucs, most those driving the campaign are not actually Labour members – in fact, we’ve got paid up Conservative and Lib Dem members on the team. I don’t think we take the insinuation that we are politically aligned as a slight, but it is factually incorrect. As such I’m not in a position to explain the SGC Labour’s thinking on abstaining on the full Core Strategy vote – though they have explained their reasoning elsewhere.

    As for the quality of development – well, we cannot prejudge that. Maybe a cursory glance around Charlton Heyes can give you the best idea.

    Interestingly (and by shear coincidence), I heard the UAV project that Cllr Rose had found out about was made public today after an agreement with the French Government. Let’s hope that our government fights for a sizeable part of the development to happen in the UK – we never know, Filton could be just the place for this new technology to be developed and manufactured!

  5. Patchway Watch,

    codswallop you say? If labour were stitched up, how come all fourteen labour councillors did not vote on the core strategu vote, they ALL opted out!!
    The only stitching up thats being done is by labour south glos councillors!

  6. As far as I’m aware, the airfield is not used at all on Saturdays and Sundays.

    Has the idea of using the runway for car “track days” been discussed?

    *Groan* I hear you all saying.

    I am 26, drive a high performance modifed car, but have never had an accident, nor do I have (or ever previously had) any points on my licence. I drive the car sensibly on the road as I do my works car, but would love the opportunity to drive my car beyond the limits we have to by law on the public highway. Something I only get to do on a very occasional basis.

    Many trackdays at established motor racing circuits are overly expensive (usually near £200 a day) and as such many of us cannot afford to go.

    There was a regular “trackday” event held at Kemble airfield until a couple of years ago complaints from local residents had it shut down due to noise in the countryside.

    Given that Filton is surrounded by factorys and main roads, I cannot see this would be such an issue here.

    The Kemble event was much cheaper, at around £40 for the day, and so was always fully booked.

    It has been proven around the world that holding cheaper “trackdays” that are accessible to most reduce crashes on the road as young drivers of modified vehicles are no longer having to use the public highway as their race track.

    By my calculations, if it were to be fully booked with 100 cars per day, on both days, all weekends of the year, there is a projected income of nearly £500,000. I’m sure this is nowhere near the extra cost required by BAE to run the airfield, but it will certainly be a big step towards it.

  7. Adam. Good idea. In fact, during the summer months, the airfield did get a lot of income on the weekends due to GA traffic. Admittedly, that drops over winter when conditions often prevent light aircraft from flying, so filling in with track days then might have been a money-spinner. There are plenty considerations though – security and safety namely. Anything left on the runway is potentially hazardous, and even at the weekends, it remains part of a defence contracting site. I believe there may also be issues with the CAA, as even when closed it remains listed as an emergency airfield (I suggest you look up “Gimli Glider” on Wikipedia for an interesting story of when heavy jets in an emergency and car races mix!)

  8. I was there on the march day, got soaked like everyone else. Lets be correct in this, Ben Walker gave his apology as was already pre-booked on other Council matters. Secondly, Cllr Ed Rose braved the wrath of abuse and traffic in making sure no one was run over !! Well done Ed. Thirdly, no impresti with Lopresti what so ever – for a man that says he is backing apprenticeships, local jobs, local business, local well being and sat on the Defence hearings – has been a complete ghost, no show, no apology, no second stand-in, no manners is obvious. So – what else could our community spend 67,000 pounds on and not forgetting the other 45,000 pounds in wasted expenses – I’m sure we could have a nice park with benches and more poo bins and our community would be so better for such. When is this I’m all-right Jack going to be ousted and busted for being a complete 100% failure .. vote him out now!

  9. This whole campaign is a trade union / Labour Party folly. It is cynical and deceitful in the extreme to try to convince Filton voters that there is some commercial magic wand to make an unviable airfield suddenly viable again. The question I want an answer to is simple: If there are so many commercial buyers queuing up to take over the airfield, why do 200 soggy-minded and soggy-clothed socialists have to give up the best part of the weekend to disrupt traffic down the A38? The answer? No-one is prepared to take on a loss maker.

  10. 200 is a pretty poor effort considering this issue is all I’ve heard the local press banging on about for months now. More Spartans signed up to go on a suicide mission than Unite could frog march into Filton to stop the area being developed.

    Then again, a few damp socialists, their brows beneath their cloth caps furrowed in concentration with the effort of forming rudimentary English sentences, eventually muttering “THIS IS FILTON AIRFIELD…but not for much longer” through a Unite-branded megaphone doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

    Funny to see so many on here trying to drag the MP into it. Why not hold your Councillors to account? Planning matters are their decisions to make after all, and even the Labour ones holding hands with the protesters on the ‘march’ didn’t have the gumption to vote against development.

    @Patchway watch-
    I hope you have some evidence for your claims about building conglomerates? Or did you hear it from a Unite rep on the ‘march’? Or did you just make it up, resorting to character assassination as all socialists do when they find they have lost yet another argument? Sounds like libel to me, but I’m sure your union will help with the legal aid arrangements. Thankfully, as a Unite supporter, you always have the option of pleading diminished responsibility on grounds of insanity…

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