Political hatchets buried in bid to save jobs at Wellesbourne airfield and market

Aerial view of Wellesbourne Airfield
Aerial view of Wellesbourne Airfield

Parliamentary candidates have set aside their political differences in a bid to see off moves to build up to 1,600 homes on Wellesbourne airfield – a site said to have more visitors than all the Shakespeare properties.

The population of the village – around 7,000 – would go up by more than half and turn Wellesbourne into a small town.

Wellesbourne and Walton Parish Council is against the development and the loss of aviation jobs on the airfield, as well as the popular markets.

And the protest group Wellesbourne Matters has been set up to save the airfield.

While Stratford District Council favours a new settlement of around 4,800 homes at Gaydon-Lighthorne Heath.

Hundreds of homes are already earmarked for Wellesbourne, including on Ettington Road and Loxley Road.

Jeremy Wright, who represents Wellesbourne as Conservative MP for Kenilworth and Southam, has joined forces with parliamentary candidates Bally Singh, Labour; Richard Dickson, Liberal Democrat; Harry Cottam, UKIP; and Rob Ballantyne, Green Party.

Mr Singh said he had led efforts to agree a cross-party joint statement aimed at saving the airfield, adding: “It’s important to show Wellesbourne that their parliamentary candidates can work together on important issues. By agreeing to this joint statement, we are sending a strong signal to developers that the airfield must be protected. This is bigger than party politics.”

The airfield plan envisages a mix of homes and a street pattern imitating the A-shape of the existing runways.

It is proposed by Cheshire-based Gladman Developments, which has been called a “no-win, no-fee developer”, which do deals with landowners to secure planning permission for sites without charging them a fee. The landowners then sell the land with permissions to another developer, giving a slice of the profits to the original developer.

The airfield plan includes a primary school, sports pitches, play areas, shops, community hall and land set aside for “a potential” secondary school.

The politicians’ statement went on to say: “Wellesbourne is a great place to live and work, and its famous airfield is a central part of the village.

“We are very concerned about proposals to develop the airfield for housing, as this will effectively end all aviation-related employment activities.

“The size of the development will also turn the village into a town, creating infrastructure pinch points which will disadvantage residents.

“We support the aims of Wellesbourne Matters. It has pointed out that the village receives significant benefits from having an active airfield and one of the largest markets in the country.”

Duncan MacKillop, chairman of Wellesbourne Matters, said five flying schools operate from the family-owned airfield and more than 100 work in related jobs.

A pilot himself, who used to keep a plane there, he added: “Figures show that 860,000 visited the airfield for the pilot training, Vulcan bomber display days and the markets, whereas 804,000 visit the Shakespeare properties.

“It’s a functioning airfield that gives enormous benefit to the area and the country as a whole. If we don’t get the pilots trained, how do we get the planes flown?”