Marchers brave the rain to protest against airfield closure

Campaigners prepare to set off from Golf Course Lane

Several hundred marchers braved heavy rain on Saturday to protest against the planned closure of Filton Airfield by its owners BAE Systems.

The campaigners say the airfield’s closure will jeopardise jobs in the local aerospace industry and they are angry that South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has revised its Core Strategy planning blueprint to allow the building of 3,700 homes on the site.

Several hundred people gathered at the Golf Course Lane entrance to the Airbus site at 12pm before marching down Filton Hill (A38), passing the eastern end of the runway, before assembling to hear speeches near the Royal Mail depot.

Participants came from a broad spectrum of society, including union leaders and members, local Councillors (of many political persuasions), aerospace workers (past and present) and even families with young children.

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, told the marchers:

“We view this as a key priority and need to protect the jobs of our members in the aerospace industry. We want to see the site growing and thriving and our main concern is the closure of the airfield could mean a rundown at Filton.”

“The wider economy of Bristol and the South West is heavily dependent on these highly-skilled jobs with many thousands more working in the supply chain. That is why we say that the local Council must recognise the value of this airfield as a major source of local prosperity. It should do everything in its power to encourage investment and guarantee the long-term security of Filton Airfield.”

Also speaking at the rally were David Goodwin and Jason Clarke, of the Save Filton Airfield campaign group.

Cross-party support for the campaign to keep the airfield open was demonstrated by an address from Barry Cash, a Liberal Democrat activist from Bristol, who relayed messages of support from South West MEP Sir Graham Watson and Peter Hargreaves (of Bristol financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown).

Two Conservative Town Councillors from Bradley Stoke, Tom Aditya and Ed Rose, also took part in the march, demonstrating that they hold contrasting views to local Conservative MP Jack Lopresti, who has sided with BAE Systems since their announcement in April last year.

Save Filton Airfield (SFA) campaigner Jason Clarke speaks

Campaigners’ focus will now turn to a meeting of South Gloucestershire Council on Wednesday night where a ‘Save Filton Airfield’ debate has been secured after more than 2,500 signatures were collected in a formal petition.

The Save Filton Airfield group is also understood to have submitted a detailed response to the Council’s revised Core Strategy document, the consultation period for which closed last Friday (17th February).

A public examination of the Core Strategy by an independent inspector appointed by the Government is now expected to begin in March or April, after the process was suspended for six months last October because the inspector wanted the Council to provide more information in several areas, including the future use of the Filton Airfield site.

More photos from Saturday’s march may be viewed in our PicasaWeb gallery.

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