WELLESBOURNE Airfield businesses facing eviction have been offered a chance to operate for another year.
Following a lengthy legal battle with the landlord Littler Investments to have their tenancies renewed, the owner has invited some of the businesses to extend their leases.
The owner has long wanted to sell the airfield to developers for housing and 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.
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. The site’s other remaining businesses were expected to leave by September 30.
But negotiations between the owner and the council, which has begun a compulsory purchase of the airfield to protect it from development, have prompted the unexpected move.
An SDC spokesperson confirmed an agreement had been reached with the owner to ‘continue aviation’ at the site while further discussions over its future were held.
South Warwickshire Flying School (SWFS) owner Rodney Gailiffe welcomed the news.
He said: “I welcome the renewal offer on behalf of SWFS and we are ever grateful for the extraordinary efforts by everyone involved in the process to ensure negotiations continue to a satisfactory outcome in preserving the aerodrome in line with Government recommendations for the future of general aviation in the UK.”
But Take Flight owner Mike Roberts, who did not receive an invitation for renewal, was suspicious of the move.
He told the Observer: “I’m suspicious of this chance. They can give the tenants a month’s notice at any time so there’s no security for the future. It’s nothing more than a licence. It’s a temporary reprieve for some of the businesses but for the long-term future it’s quite the opposite. It’s just a move to appease the council.
“Without the work of Take Flight leading the tenant’s campaign, and lobbying the council, the airfield would already be closed. The fact that they have written to the private owners, excluding myself the MD of Take Flight Aviation who personally own aircraft, is again a clear indication that they wish to make the process to gain vacant possession easier. If it were the true intention of the landlords to work with the local authority to retain the airfield why would they seek to remove the airfields biggest operator?”
Talking about Take Flight’s future, Mr Roberts said planning permission was required to move its buildings from the site and could result in more legal action.
He added: “It’s unlikely we can get permission before the 29th so we’re unsure whether we can go by then. It may involve legal action.”