Threat to North Weald Airfield
North Weald Airfield is under threat of housing development - again. From time to time various public bodies and companies look, without regard for heritage, present usage or potential as an airfield, at developing it for housing. With the current discussions on development in the Southeast and the M11 corridor the process is escalating.
In 2000 we had the Drivers Jonas report. Drivers Jonas, a property development company, were commissioned as consultants by Epping Forest District Council to carry out a study on the future of the airfield. It was no surprise that the number one option was for a Business Park and housing. The public presentation was accompanied by an attractive photograph of how it might look, alongside, for comparison, a photograph taken of wasteland outside the airfield fence to represent what it looks like at present. There was a massive public protest and no more was heard of Drivers Jonas.
With the proposals to develop the M11 corridor events have gathered pace. The Harlow Options study was published. Harlow want to expand but don't want to use their own green spaces, so believe they could achieve this by taking over North Weald Airfield. For this study the consultant was W.S. Atkins.
There was also the Stansted/M11 report.
Currently we have an unelected body, the East of England Regional Authority (EERA), carrying out the planning. They have published a discussion document RSS14, Regional Spatial Strategy for the East of England. This document proposes 6000 houses for North Weald to include the Airfield. Comments on RSS14 have to be in by 16 March 2005.
When looking for development space for housing North Weald Airfield is the easy option. Of course housing is needed. And of course the Airfield must develop. But with its extra long runway and current aviation businesses it is a unique facility. Once developed it will be lost forever and become just one more area of urban sprawl. With cars outstripping road space at an accelerating rate the only space for travel in the long term will be underground or the sky above. With some lateral thinking, the airfield could be part of an imaginative transport infrastructure while retaining its historical and aviation association. The proximity to London and Stansted could be exploited.
Two groups have been formed to preserve the Airfield and the North Weald Bassett village.
North Weald Airfield Users Group
The North Weald Airfield Users group has been formed to:
- Ensure the survival of North Weald as a working airfield and leisure facility.
- Protect it, and its surrounding community, from adverse development.
- Keep its history alive.
- Guide its future.
Information on the users group can be found at www.northwealdairfield.org.
The following is an extract from the address given by a former assistant chaplain to the Royal Air Force, the Reverend Rayner Harries at the Battle of Britain service at the Airfield Memorial on 14th September 2003.
" We all know that those who fought in the Battle of Britain did so in the cause of freedom, so that we today could live our lives in peace and serenity. We would all agree that people are more important than things, and that to have a place in which to live is vital to us all. Yet some areas are hallowed, not by any blessing but by those who lived and flew and worked and died. This airfield is part of our heritage; it is part of our history, for the Battle of Britain ranks with Waterloo for the Army and Trafalgar for the Navy, dates and battles that are immortal. The Battle of Britain is enshrined in the names of the Royal Air Force Stations from which the Battle was fought. So it is not with any Nimby syndrome that we contest the destruction of this Airfield, something the Germans failed to do in two world wars. There are parts of our heritage, which have preservation orders made upon them, and it is my submission that Royal Air Force North Weald should be one of those. Houses are needed, certainly, but so to are places which have been instrumental in preserving our freedom. This Airfield is one."