Old Sarum Airfield could close in three months

One of the UK’s most historic and picturesque airfields, Old Sarum, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, could close in three months.

The owners of the airfield lease, the Hudson family, have given three months’ notice to businesses on the airfield to leave, and for owners to relocate their aircraft.

It follows a decision by the planning inspectorate not to grant planning permission for the owners to build 462 houses on the airfield, a decision labelled as “an unexpected and perverse decision” by Matthew Hudson, a director of the airfield.

Mr Hudson, in a letter sent to airfield residents, said, “After October 31, the Hudson family may not provide future loans to Old Sarum Airfield Limited since it now has absolutely no prospect of repaying the existing non-performing 7-figure loans, except by promoting unlimited flying.

“As the council’s own expert testified this could make the use of the airfield profitable but only with a very large increase in flying operations.

“The airfield profitable at that level would be able to fully service the existing loans from the Hudsons. The consequence would be a significant increase in aviation noise caused by overflying local residents and communities in and around Salisbury from unlimited flying of all types of aircraft including helicopters, at all hours. As accepted at the inquiry, this will damage the quality of life for hundreds of families. It would also reduce their property values considerably due to the noise nuisance 24-7.

“Matthew Hudson is considering this unpleasant quandary – impose large property losses on hundreds of homeowners while reducing their quality of life; or close the airfield and personally realise unsustainable seven figure losses. This is a situation which, with the support of dedicated staff, he has spent decades a £million trying to prevent.

“In the interim we need to keep all our options open and to this end we are forthwith giving you three months’ notice of the termination of your licence. Your licence will terminate on 31 October 31 209 when you will have no rights of access to any of the airfield premises or any use of the airfield.

“We are very sorry that we are forced to take this action but want to provide you with as much advance notice as possible. I hope you understand that we need to ensure that we keep all our options open in order to permit mitigation of some of the harm that this strange, indeed unfounded decision by Wiltshire Council and the planning inspector has caused.”

Old Sarum Airfield

Comments

  1. “24-7 Noise nuisance” what a ridiculous statement.
    How many international airports actually operate 24 hour departures? Let alone un-lit airfields.
    The fact the hangars have been allowed to fall into such disrepair despite their historical importance in both Aviation and local history goes to show how little certain people care for the future of this amazing airfield.

  2. The owners have tried every which way to make flying untenable at the airfield, first of all by discouraging pilots from basing or flying there, then laterally by encouraging MORE flying in the hope the noise nuisance will have the airfields neighbours complaining of noise, leading to it`s closure.
    Ultimately, when property developers get hold of an airfield the sole reason is to acquire building land, NOT to promote aviation interests. This airfield, under the stewardship of a very competent female pro aviation manager, used to be a thriving friendly airfield ( I know, I used to use it) until it was acquired by the developers who promptly `let go of her services` and set about running down the airfield.
    This is simply a case of the developers being a dog in a manger. “If WE cant build on it, then YOU can`t fly from it”.

    1. I live in Old Sarum and agree with this assessment. The developers took a bet that they would ultimately be granted planning consent for a housing development, that’s where the payback was, they lost. They never expected to make any real money from rental income. They’ve never been concerned about the interests of the local or flying communities these were just something they had to contend with in the short term. It’s not all their money, the Hudson family must also have persuaded other investors to put up cash. They must also have taken on some serious investment capital and loans if the rental income can’t even service the interest on the loans. The fact the Hudson thinks he can or will impose property losses and reduce the quality of life for residents shows you how he thinks. This is typical behaviour of a bully, it’s unlikely he’s on speaking terms with a single resident.

  3. The new revisions to the NPPF (National Planning policy Framework) give the lie to the basis of the Hudson argument. The councin always seemed to be supportive of the airfield, eg Listing buildings. Surely someone can in view of this NPPF can ‘think again’.

  4. Be it as it may, we’re likely to end up with an empty field where nothing much happens. The developers are 100% within their right to do whatever they like with their asset. If they want to turn it into a plant conservation area, it’s their call. And I’m sure nobody has the money, or the interest, to buy the field off them.

    1. That is incorrect. Fortunately!
      The whole area was made a conservation area, to protect this unique asset. Wiltshire Council has a direct responsibility to agree a management plan, to preserve and enhance the area.

      Mr Hudson and Mr Hodge only own the hangar they have neglected. They have a lease on the land, not the freehold.

  5. To a property developer, airfields are like whiskey to an alcoholic. Big open greenfield treasure chests, waiting to be broken open. And they know how to play on the fears of local voters (pollution, noise, devaluation) to put pressure on local councils to grant permission they otherwise wouldn’t. So the tactic is to let the infrastructure fall away (“Look, nobody wants to rent space here”) until the Planning Authorities are faced with accepting a windswept blot on the landscape, or discussing the developers plans.
    Sadly, all airfields are in developers gunsights – there’s so little open space in this country which isn’t hallowed, sacrosanct “green belt” that its easier to destroys the aviation infrastructure than challenge green belt set aside.
    Hopefully now, with the new government recognition that GA exists and needs airfields, we can see more de-clawing of the avaricious fortune hunters.

  6. I cannot see what the problem is. The owners have leased an airfield and part of their obligations is to maintain the historic buildings. Because they have not upheld their obligations then the Council, as freeholders, should terminate the lease unless the owners of said lease repair the buildings into the same condition when they took on the lease. There is no right for the leaseholder to develop the land for housing if that option is not in the lease, which is not the case. The lease should be offered to a company or consortium that genuinely wants to keep the airfield for its intended use for General Aviation.

  7. When I read of airfield closures to profit from development I wonder why the airpark development option isn’t used. Often all the land isn’t needed and a development which allows profit to be made and flying to continue would be a win win. Prime plots with airfield access would be popular and others would attract normal prices. Although the nimbys rabbit on about noise the reality at a small airfield is not many movements of increasingly quieter aircraft.
    Panshanger nearly managed it and Wellsbourne have done to a degree I suppose the developers see the runways, however reduced in size, as a number of houses….and so just profit.
    I hope something can be done to save this great airfield.

    1. The 3 reasons why English Heritage approved conservation status:

      1. Virtually complete suite of WW1 buildings.
      2. Virtually the last grass airstrip still remaining.
      3. Perimeter largely intact.

      You will understand why development would adversely impact.
      The locals do not have noise issues, except when these people ramped up the noise deliberately.

  8. FYI if you’re interested there’s a new farm-strip opened near us about 5 miles east of Bridgwater. It’s called Middlezoy Aerodrome (they have a facebook page and a website) . They have classic planes there already, and I think they have hanger space available.

  9. I too, read the warped wording and false claims made by Mr Hudson and his claims are both deliberately obfuscatory and erroneous.

    A clear case for a compulsory purchase order to preserve the historic buildings deliberately left to rack and ruin. Where are the petty bureaucrats and their even more petty All Parliamentary Aviation Group? Do they actually DO anything? Summons the scumbag Hudson and demand he gives assurances for the survival of the airfield and buildings under his watch… and deny all development of the site for ANY development other than aviation.

    1. WC are to review the policy and the lack of agreed management plan, which protects the airfield.

      Compulsory purchase is very much obligatory, should the Mr H’s fail to restore their one hangar.

      Judicial Review now being pursued my Hudson and Hodge the developers.

  10. It is sickening that rich people can buy listed land, knowing perfectly well that they cannot ever build on that land in the belief that their money will eventually enable them to bulldoze their wishes over the rights and wishes of the community. The latest threats and whinges must be resisted. It is purely sour grapes that makes Mr Hudson shut the airfield and cut his nose off to spite his face. The airfields should be compulsorily purchased from him less the money that he should have spent honouring the commitment to maintain the listed buildings on the site some of which are in danger of collapsing.

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