Airport rally backs community asset bid

LIBERAL Democrats are pressing ahead with a campaign to secure community asset status for Shoreham Airport.

Jemima Bland, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham, headed a rally in front of the terminal building on Friday, April 11.

Jemima Bland, right, with campaigners at Shoreham Airport on Friday S14543H14

Jemima Bland, right, with campaigners at Shoreham Airport on Friday S14543H14

Members of the Shoreham Society and the Shoreham Airport Operators and Tenants Association were among those holding up placards and touring the building to assess the state of the Grade II* listed building.

Ms Bland said community asset status was ‘a really viable next step’ and a Friends of Shoreham Airfield charity was likely to be set up in the near future to further the campaign.

“I am pretty confident, as it has happened all over the south east,” she explained.

“It does mean we need to be imaginative and determined in finding financial solutions to make it sustainable.

“A community asset needs a charity. It means if the airport is sold, the community has six months to bid for community ownership.

“It is a decent chunk of money and a lot of will and I think it is definitely an option that we are able to progress.”

She showed campaigners the cracks in the outside walls and the damage to the ceiling inside, pointing out where water came through when it rains.

Shoreham Society chairman Gerard Rosenberg said: “We are just very concerned about the state of the building. We keep being told there are sensitive negotiations going on but we just fear it is going to be left to rot.”

He said the society had also been working with East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton but because of the complicated ownership, it had been difficult ‘getting to the bottom of it’.

“It is like a beached whale and we want it to swim again,” he added. “Albermarle said it would commit £4million to maintain the building but that has not been forthcoming. Our main concern is for the building.”

Richard Heywood, treasurer of Shoreham Airport Operators and Tenants Association, said the group was keep to support the campaign.

“It is a sensible way forward. Something has to be done to protect this building. This is a Grade II* listed and an historic landmark. It is the oldest licensed airfield in the UK and it is in desperate need of investment.”

He said the pilots who use the airfield, and in some case have invested large sums of money in it, wanted to see the councils, as freeholders, to exert more influence in order to see some progress.

Mr Heywood added: “The perception of a little airport like this is that it is all millionaires flying their aeroplanes but that is not the case. We are just people who love it and spend our disposable income on it.

“I think the community asset idea is got extremely good validity and can be the basis of some future discussions and negotiations.

“The stakeholders are not being consulted. There are a large number of customers here and there is insufficient communication with them. It would be nice to have greater involvement.”

The freehold is owned by Worthing Borough Council and Brighton and Hove City Council and the airport is leased to Albemarle Shoreham Airport.