200 protesters brave the rain in demo against Filton Airfield closure
AROUND 200 protesters turned out in torrential rain for a demonstration against the closure of Filton Airfield.
Community groups, families and union members marched from Golf Course Lane along Gloucester Road North to the edge of the airfield, where they heard rallying calls to continue their fight.
The heavens had already opened as the line of demonstrators set off with banners and brollies.
As they made their way down the hill, a number of passing drivers hooted their car horns in support.
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Patchway councillor Dave Tiley, right, who helped organise the event and is chairman of the aerospace branch of the Unite union, thanked everyone for their determination to take part.
He said: "This is a fantastic show. We've defied the weather and our critics. It's a privilege to stand in front of the airfield. We are here to fight to save it so let's hope we make a difference. We need jobs and manufacturing, not just houses."
Tony Burke, Unite's assistant general secretary, said: "The loss of the airfield will have a dramatic impact on the local economy. We are going to do all we can to keep it – and we mean business. We must keep Filton flying."
The airfield is owned by BAE Systems, which plans to close it at the end of the year. It wants to use the land for an aerospace enterprise zone and South Gloucestershire Council recently agreed to allow some 2,500 houses to be built on part of the site.
But a planning inspector will soon open an inquiry into the council's development blueprint for the district, which includes the controversial use of the airfield, and objectors are hoping it will lead to a reversal of the decision.
Opponents are worried that jobs will go if there is no airfield. They also said having so many extra houses would result in traffic chaos on surrounding roads.
BAE Systems said the airfield was no longer financially viable, while consultants concluded it had no commercial future as an airport. They also said the aviation industry in the area would not be adversely affected by its closure.
But those trying to save it claimed transporting wings for the A400M military aircraft by road and sea would increase costs and could jeopardise future employment in the area.
Adam Monk, chairman of Filton Town Council, urged protesters to attend a meeting of South Gloucestershire Council on Wednesday when the airfield closure would be debated.
People were also encouraged to lobby the local MPs and ask them to support the aviation industry.
Local history expert Andy Warren, of Yate, was among the demonstrators.
He said there was too much of Bristol's aviation heritage linked to the airfield to let it go.
"It's a very sad day for Filton that it's come to this," he said.