Playing at Hypotheticals (again)

Profile picture for user Phillip Rhodes

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15 years 2 months

Posts: 1,260

As regulars to this forum will know, my ambition is to see former RAF Driffield (East Yorkshire) preserved for future generations. Another ambition I hold dear is to see flying return to the site – albeit in a limited form and dependant on the MoD vacating the airfield – currently used as training area by the British Army. It must be said that Driffield will never become a regional airport, nor a general aviation facility – there simply isn’t the demand in East Yorkshire to make Driffield a viable (profitable) GA centre. However, I believe that flying can return to Driffield by reinstating the site (or part thereof) as a grass landing field – initially operated under the 28 day rule and run by volunteers. The site could cater for fly-ins, competitions and/or gliding. Flying at Driffield would not be dependant on the need for a hangar/s, while at least one “minor” aerodrome operate out of a control van (which can be picked up quite cheaply). Clearly there are numerous stumbling blocks. Firstly, most airfields surplus to requirements are traditionally offered back to the original land owners. Secondly, the MoD will always want top dollar for any site. Accordingly, securing a bank loan or private investment would be impractical, because there would be no way of making a profit. However, I believe that there maybe a solution. How would it work? Now RAF Driffield started out as a grass landing field. During the war the airfield was expanded by some 50-60% and three concrete runways and a perimeter track were constructed (along with a new bomb dump and numerous parking stands). Sadly, 90% of this concrete was removed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My bet is that with future defence cuts (due to additional projects going over budget), the MoD might need to save money. So it’s not unrealistic to believe that the site (described by the Army Training Estate as a “minor” facility) might come on the market within ten years. Obviously, the first hurdle is to see if the original landowners want the site. If they’re not interested, then it will go on the open market. The local planning authority class the site as Green Field Land and accordingly building is prohibited. Finance It maybe possible for the cost of the project to be met by selling off the remaining 10% of concrete (approximately 500,0003ft worth) which would generate between £5 and £60 per ton – depending on who you talk to. Also, reinstating the original boundary would also free up approximately 120 acres – worth between £2,000 and £10,000 per acre, again depending on who you talk to. It must be clearly stated although the main runway and perimeter track survive, their widths have been reduced to a uniform 18ft (approx.). By selling off the remaining concrete and surplus land, you MIGHT cover the initial purchase of the site and the cost of restoring part or all of the original landing field. It would take around 18 months to remove the cross-country course and unmanaged trees. Dilemma set in Concrete – Question: History is history. Despite loosing 90% of its concrete, what remains is still part of RAF Driffield’s rich and diverse history. The biggest question is how do you reconcile the every changing landscape of Driffield Aerodrome. Between 1936 and 1943 RAF Driffield boasted a grass landing field. Then between 1943 and the late 1970s Driffield was blessed with a complex series of concrete runways and a three-mile-long perimeter track. Between the early 1980s and the present day the site has gradually changed to meet the needs of an every changing British Army. By coming full circle, will removing that 10% of concrete diminish 70 years of history? Or do you strengthen the past by reintroducing flying to the site (albeit in a reduce capacity)?
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Member for

15 years 4 months

Posts: 271

RAF Driffield I remember flying over Driffield in a Cessna 150 (can I say that on an historic aviation forum?) a few years ago and seeing the alterations that had been made to a typical expansion period RAF airfield to make it fit for the Army's purpose. Whilst not a policy maker myself (!) I am aware that current MOD policy is to "Rationalise the Estate" as much as possible but also to get away from London and the SE to some extent, so I would wager that the Army won't want to part with Driffield for a long time. If it ever did then such sites are prime targets for building as they come into the "brown field" category just like some of the historic railway sites that I would love to have seen survive but are now covered with houses cos people have to live somewhere, even in East Yorkshire (Its quite nice from what I remember!).