The future of Wellesbourne Airfield is a little less precarious this week after the landlords, Littler Investments Limited, wrote to nearly all the tenant businesses on the aerodrome to offer them a renewal of their present leases for a further year – all except Take Flight Aviation.
The offer is so that negotiations can continue with Stratford-on-Avon District Council during Compulsory Purchase Order proceedings. The council wants to keep the airfield operating while the landlord wants to build houses on the site.
Resident pilot owners have also received letters offering them a licence to base their aeroplanes at the aerodrome.
Take Flight Aviation led the campaign to save the airfield and has been deliberately left out.
Mike Roberts, boss of Take Flight Aviation, said in an open letter to the leader of Stratford District Council, “Would it not be appropriate to ask why just one business should be discriminated against?
“I would ask you to explain how removing the airfield’s biggest operator, which has already obtained planning permission to build a new modern hangar and clubhouse, the operator who offers apprenticeships and does more to engage with the local community than any other, fits with the core strategy to enhance the established flying function?
“Indeed removing the airfields biggest operator also goes against the neighbourhood plan to safeguard the businesses and allow them to grow.”
Tony Jefferson, leader of the Council, has replied, “I hope that you understand that, under the circumstances, my responses have to be careful.
“As you are aware SDC have commenced proceedings to make a CPO for Wellesbourne Airfield with a view to implementing our Core Strategy requirements of preserving and enhancing aviation at Wellesbourne. As part of this process we are required to enter into negotiations with the current owners to see if the airfield can be acquired through voluntary transfer or if the Core Strategy aims can be achieved without resorting to the making of a CPO. We have no real choice but to do this.
“SDC were recently informed that the Landlord and Tenant proceedings between the airfield owners and the current tenants had reached a conclusion and that as a result of this, there was a serious risk that all tenants would be required to vacate the site by the end of September 2019.
“As part of our discussions with the current owners we have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that requires aviation to be continued on the Wellesbourne site whilst negotiations about the future enhancement of the site continue. As part of this MoU the owners are required to provide essential flying functions and to maintain the necessary infrastructure in accordance with the Core Strategy requirements.
“As our CPO interest relates only to the use of the land we are unable to specify how this should be provided and, despite our best efforts, we were unable to require that all existing tenants be offered extended tenancies as the owners firmly and correctly felt that this was a Landlord and Tenant matter.
“It is disappointing that the owners appear not to have offered Take Flight a new tenancy, despite our strong representations and we recognise the valuable contribution that your business makes to the Warwickshire economy and community.”
Really disappointed, @StratfordDC, to learn that @TakeFlightAv hasn’t been invited to stay at Wellesbourne Airfield like the other businesses there. It’s a fantastic flying school and means a lot to so many people. Please help stop @TakeFlightAv being evicted! @HeraldNewspaper
— Rachel Ingram (@msrachelingram) September 6, 2019
One of the businesses which has had its lease renewed is South Warwickshire Flying School. Owner Rodney Galiffe said, “Kim and I welcome the renewal offer on behalf of SWFS and we are ever grateful for the extraordinary efforts by everyone involved in the process to ensure that negotiations continue to a satisfactory outcome in preserving the aerodrome in line with Government recommendations for the future of General Aviation in the UK.
“We are thankful for the particular assistance from the former Secretary of State for Transport, Councillors and Officers of S-O-A District Council, Wellesbourne & Walton Parish Council, the Stratford Herald and associated press, the General Aviation Awareness Council, the All Party Parliamentary Group on GA and Mr Michael Littler for his committed unbiased long standing support of flying functions at his aerodrome.”