Old Sarum Airfield helps vets take flight during COVID-19

By Anita Jaynes on 6 May, 2020

Salisbury’s historic Old Sarum Airfield is set to assist with flight operations to support vital animal health checks during the fight against Covid-19. Companies specialising in sensor technology to monitor the health of millions of poultry birds as well as the nation’s cows, sheep and pigs are now using the airfield to transport vets across the UK to complete nationwide checks and to respond to health issues as quickly as possible. 

A spokesperson for Old Sarum Airfield said, “This work is a vital part in keeping the UK supply chain moving during the Covid-19 crisis and the owners of the airfield are delighted they can offer help to the nation during this unprecedented crisis.”

The Airfield which was established in 1917 has served the country through both World Wars and latterly has been operating as a private airfield.

The surroundings and operations have changed over the years, and the future of the airfield and volume of air traffic may be subject to change also as it awaits the results of a Judicial Review due to be heard today, Wednesday 6th May.

In April 2015, Old Sarum Airfield submitted the application to Wiltshire Council which would allow it to create a mixed-use development including 460 new homes on its land adjacent to the Airfield. Despite the site being earmarked for significant development within the Wiltshire Core Strategy, and the Airfield’s plans being commented favourably by two successive Inspectors after Public Inquiries, Wiltshire Council failed to determine the application after seven extensions of time and the subsequent appeal was dismissed by a Planning Inspector.

The Judicial Review will now determine if the Inspector’s decision was lawful or not. Either way, the results will have implications for its operational future.

A spokesperson for Old Sarum Airfield added, “Our hope is that the Judicial Review will permit a way to be identified to allow the development to go ahead which will not only create much-needed new homes in accordance with the Core Strategy but will help to safeguard the Airfield’s future as a quiet heritage amenity.                                                                                              

“The Airfield has required substantial subsidies to enable it to remain open as a public facility, operating at the quiet and moderate operational levels that were agreed with the Council in 2007. 

“Our development proposals for a self-sustaining, heritage led plan were developed by an award winning team between 2007-2012, in conjunction with the Council’s senior planning staff and fully accord with the Local Plan. 

“Under the current commercial operating model, if the development is not permitted, we will have no choice but to increase operations at the Airfield in order for it to provide long term economic viability which was surrendered in 2007 as a result of Council’s request. Recouping the substantial losses will mean increasing fixed, rotary and training operations including night flying.

“The Airfield is part of the community. We employ local people and welcome visitors from Salisbury, Wiltshire and across the UK. We hope we can continue to operate at a moderate level without the need for increasing the types and volume of air traffic in the future.”