An air of sadness hung over Filton Airfield today as the last few planes took-off ahead of the official closure at the end of the year.
Aircraft enthusiasts, past and present aerospace workers, local Councillors and members of the public gathered at various sites around the airfield to witness the historic occasion, which brought to an end over one hundred years of aviation operations at the site.
Local Labour Councillors who have campaigned to save the airfield laid a symbolic wreath on the boundary fence at the eastern end of the runway to mark its closure.
District Councillor Adam Monk (Labour, Filton) said:
“It is perhaps appropriate that the night which follows the closure of the runway at Filton is the longest and darkest night of the year. In 1940 German bombs failed to close the airfield but today developers and short-sighted Tory and Lib Dem Councillors have succeeded where they failed. They have closed the birthplace of Concorde, the Brabazon and the Bristol Beaufighter, perhaps for ever, and endangered thousands of high tech jobs in the process.”
The Labour Councillors acknowledged the work of the Save Filton Airfield group, which continues to argue that the airfield must be re-opened, and said they will be encouraging the new Mayor of Bristol to pursue the independent economic study that he says is necessary to determine the regional impact of the airfield’s closure.
Labour Councillor Bill Bowrey said:
“I respectfully suggest to the Mayor of Bristol that this economic study for our City Region will also have implications for the wider UK economy and should therefore be conducted with the support of the UK Government, which is currently consulting on its long-term aviation policies.”
The ongoing campaign to save the airfield was also supported by UKIP, which yesterday sent a letter to Simon Burns MP, minister of State for Transport, calling on him to urgently consider the implications of “closing and building over” the airfield.
The letter, signed by William Dartmouth (UKIP MEP for the South West), Neil Hamilton (UKIP National Executive Committee) and District Councillor Ben Walker (UKIP, Bradley Stoke North), calls on the Government to act in the national interest and “override the local planning decision in order to ensure that Filton Airfield continues as an operational airfield”.
BAE Systems has said it is closing the airfield because it “economically unviable”, although this is disputed by the campaign groups, who point to the fact that it has made a small profit in the last two years for which figures are available.
South Gloucestershire Council has outlined a strategic plan to build 2,500 homes on the site of the airfield along with 55ha reserved for employment.
The Bristol Post revealed today that the defence company has agreed to sell the site to property development company Bridgehouse Capital Limited in a deal believed to be worth £120 million.
Assurances have been given that the Western Counties police helicopter and the Great Western air ambulance will be able to continue operations from the site, despite the closure of the airfield.
BAE Systems recently announced the donation of £2.4 million towards the establishment of an aerospace heritage museum on the site, which would provide a permanent home for Concorde 216.
Photo 1: Cllr Bill Bowrey (Labour, Kings Chase) “pays his respects”.
Photo 2: The last three aircraft to take-off from the airfield line up on the runway.