Council buy-out of famous former RAF station paves way for new civilian future
It was announced on March 6 that the former RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire is to be purchased from the Ministry of Defence by West Lindsey District Council, which will in turn transfer ownership to its new development partner, Scampton Holdings Ltd. Under a development agreement, it will regenerate the 800-acre site. “At the heart of the proposal”, the council said in a statement, “is the continued use of Scampton as an operational airfield.”
According to the council, the deal “will secure over £300 million of investment”, and provide “aviation heritage, business, aerospace, space and aviation technology and education opportunities”. Four “key business areas” have been identified, namely “commercial activity, aerospace and aviation; heritage; hospitality and tourism; and education and research.”
A redevelopment of the First World War aerodrome at Brattleby, located north-west of the city of Lincoln, RAF Scampton was opened in 1936. It went on to be one of the service’s key bomber stations, not least as the wartime home of No 617 Squadron, and post-war as a nuclear-armed Vulcan base. In more recent times, Scampton was best-known as the home of the RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, which first arrived when the Central Flying School took up residence in 1983. Except for a temporary sojourn at Cranwell following a previous closure of Scampton to flying between 1995 and 2000, the team was resident until October 2022, when it moved to Waddington. It had been announced during 2018 that Scampton would close as an RAF station and become surplus to MoD requirements.
The chairman of Scampton Holdings Ltd, Peter Hewitt, said the company is, “passionate about unlocking the future potential of this key site. We bring to the table a wealth of experience and knowledge across the aerospace, defence, aviation, heritage and hospitality sectors, which through our collaborative and partnership approach to regenerating the site will ultimately deliver thousands of highly skilled new jobs in key growth sectors in the region”. Among its “guiding principles” are “the protection, promotion and enhancement of existing heritage assets at Scampton”, “supporting and improving existing community facilities” and “maintaining Scampton as an operational and licensed airfield, including retention of the restricted airspace status.”
Those “existing heritage assets” include in particular the RAF Scampton Heritage Centre, incorporating the office of former No 617 Squadron commanding officer Guy Gibson in a Grade II-listed wartime hangar. Of late, the centre has been closed pending a decision on the future of the airfield. Hopefully the council announcement will permit a reopening.
The council leader, Councillor Owen Bierley, said, “As we approach the significant milestone of the 80th anniversary of Operation ‘Chastise’ — the Dambusters raid — and will be remembering the important role that RAF Scampton played, the council is proud to be taking this huge step to preserve and enhance the heritage of the site. The council has always believed that whilst the site was deemed surplus to MoD requirements, it should play a key role in ‘Levelling Up’ opportunities across West Lindsey and Lincolnshire.
“I am delighted that Scampton Holdings Ltd share the vision for the site, which has been based on significant public and stakeholder engagement through the Local Plan process. Taking what are considered to be unique features, such as the world-renowned heritage, restricted airspace and strategic location, our new partner has been able to create a commercially viable and deliverable investment proposition and master plan.
“The council has the resources in place to deliver the site purchase and development agreement and we look forward to working closely with Scampton Holdings Ltd and the Ministry of Defence in the coming weeks to complete the deal.”