A FLIGHT school owner who was not offered a temporary lease from Wellesbourne Airfield owners is demanding answers from council bosses.
Mike Roberts who owns Take Flight Aviation has branded a recent agreement between Stratford District Council and owners Littler Investments to offer temporary leases to other businesses on the airfield a ‘cynical ploy’.
The offer followed a lengthy legal battle with the owners which want to sell the land to developers. The owners originally refused to allow the tenants – including two flying schools, a cafe and an aeroplane workshop – to renew their leases. The businesses took their fight to court but lost the original case in June last year, and then a further appeal in March.
And the tenants remaining in the fight – Take Flight Aviation and Warwickshire Aviation – were given a final date of October 29 to leave after permission to appeal a second time was refused.
But negotiations between the owners and council, which has entered into a compulsory purchase order (CPO) of the airfield to protect it from development, prompted an agreement – ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ – to offer lease extensions to the other businesses.
Mr Roberts believed his business had been discriminated against due to its role in the legal battle and the Save Wellesbourne Airfield campaign.
He suggested the owners felt his business was a threat to what he believed was still their intention to close down the airfield.
In an open letter to the council he wrote: “l understand the authority have made a Memorandum of Understanding with the landowners regarding Wellesbourne Airfield. I am amazed that I have not been given sight of this and that the local authority feel this is an appropriate course of action.
“Would it not be appropriate to ask why just one business should be discriminated against?
“I would ask you to explain how removing the airfield’s biggest operator, which has already obtained planning permission to build a new modern hangar and clubhouse, the operator who offers apprenticeships and does more to engage with the local community than any other, fits with the core strategy to enhance the established flying function?”
He went on to question the council’s consideration of the Neighbourhood Plan which included to ‘safeguard the businesses and allow them to grow’.
He concluded: “It is clear that the landlord’s intention in offering temporary leases to the other tenants is a cynical ploy to make it easier to close down the airfield. This is confirmed by the evidence given in court by the landowners, and a motion passed at Littler Investments’ board meeting, that it is their intention to cease the flying function. The reason for Take Flight’s eviction is clear, that as we are the driving force behind the battle to save the airfield, they wish to remove the company that really understands what’s happening here. I am simply astounded by this decision that all the tenants have not been treated fairly and equally and the council’s support of this action.”
District council leader Tony Jefferson responded while negotiations continued, the agreement required aviation to continue on the site in line with the Core Strategy and subsequently the owners would need to maintain the airfield for that purpose.
Although how this was carried out was not up to council bosses.
He added: “As our CPO interest relates only to the use of the land we are unable to specify how this should be provided and, despite our best efforts, we were unable to require that all existing tenants be offered extended tenancies as the owners firmly and correctly felt that this was a landlord and tenant matter.
“It is disappointing that the owners appear not to have offered Take Flight a new tenancy, despite our strong representations and we recognise the valuable contribution that your business makes to the Warwickshire economy and community.”