Diggers move in at Filton Airfield
DIGGERS have moved onto the historic runway at Filton, just weeks after the airfield closed to flights for the very last time.
As revealed by The Post last month, the airfield was sold off to a London-based property firm by landlord BAE Systems in a multi-million-pound deal on the day it closed to flights.
Yesterday at least three mechanical diggers started tearing chunks out of the runway, as work began to transform the airfield in readiness for redevelopment.
The airfield is more than 100 years old and is seen by many as the birthplace of the UK's aviation industry.
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Even though the airfield closed in the week before the Christmas holidays there had been a lingering hope that it could be saved from closure.
Campaigners said they would fight the closure until the bitter end – but the arrival of the diggers appears to have snuffed out any chance of a reprieve.
Bristol's mayor George Ferguson got involved in the dispute and called for an economic impact survey to be carried out before a final decision was made on the future of the airfield.
BAE did not respond to a request by The Post for a comment on the arrival of the team of diggers – but work on dismantling the runway appears to have started in earnest.
BAE inherited the airfield as a result of its interest in the British Aerospace Company – the descendant of the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, which was set up in 1910 by Sir George White.
The runway was put down when the Second World War broke out, to handle heavier planes, and in 1946, the renamed Bristol Aeroplane Company won the contract to build the Brabazon – the biggest British-built land air plane.
The iconic Concorde, which was also developed and built in Bristol and is one of the last existing supersonic planes, has its home at the airfield.
BAE Systems has always maintained the airfield was being closed because it was no longer economically viable.
The company has previously said: "The decision to close was made in consultation with airfield stakeholders, including Airbus, whose business will not be disadvantaged by the airfield's closure.
"BAE Systems is committed to developing the airfield for business and residential use and is supporting a new museum at Filton to house Concorde Alpha-Foxtrot and Bristol's aviation heritage.
"We know Filton has an important place in Bristol's aviation heritage which is why BAE Systems is providing financial backing of £2 million and an eight-acre site at Filton to support the Bristol Aero Collection Trust in their plans to create an aviation heritage museum and learning centre.
"We will also be providing £400,000 of design, construction consultancy and project management support."
Despite the closure, Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) will continue to operate its rescue helicopter from the area.
Police helicopters will also continue to be able to fly from a site at the airfield.
South Gloucestershire Council had earmarked the site for development in its local plan and wants to see 2,500 homes built on the land.
Last month The Post reported that the airfield had been sold to London-based property firm Bridgehouse Capital Limited in a deal worth around £120 million.
The company is expected to lodge a planning application for housing on the site in the near future.