The recent announcement of the closure of RAF Halton came as a surprise to us even though the threat of closure has been around for over 30 years. But rather than waiting around for someone else to decide what they are going to do with the RAF site, Halton Parish Council (HPC) has been working to influence what actually happens. There are two key organisations involved: the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), who have responsibility for selling the land for as much money as possible, and Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC), the planning authority. Between them they are going to be developing a master plan.
Looking at the various plots of land available, and what constraints there are on developing those plots of land, and what the community would find acceptable, we have drawn up an overall plan based on land usage.
Some key background information is important:
- Firstly, except for the airfield, all land being disposed of is in the green belt (at the moment) – therefore unless the government are going to renege on their last manifesto commitment to protect the green belt it should serve to stop some of the unacceptable high density housing we have seen elsewhere. To be specific, the constraint is that the amount of building would be limited to the same footprint and height of existing buildings.
- Secondly, as a grade 1 listed building Halton House and estate is protected by Historic England – which means someone needs to preserve it.
- Thirdly, the eight old barrack buildings on the main site are listed and thus will be protected.
Clearly there will be new building, but this should be limited in size and scope to the existing footprint. It does not mean that there will be no new houses, but it does mean there should not be such a glut of housing. The overall plan we have developed seeks to protect the open vistas we see today, maintain the rural nature of the Parish and provide a mix of residential and commercial uses. We have proposed that some land goes towards helping the community and addresses the heritage assets we have. There has been some initial interest shown in the airfield and hangars from theatres and the film industry.
We have shared our ideas with local interested parties and with AVDC and the MOD/DIO. Steve Bowles, our District Councillor, has taken our plan to AVDC and they are seriously considering buying the whole site.
By working with David Lidington and his office we have had a meeting with the Mark Lancaster - Minister for Defence Veterans, Reserves and Personnel. Our meeting went very well and he understood that Halton Parish was the place where the 743 acres are to be disposed of and that we are a key stakeholder.
We will be a keen participant in the discussions and developments for the RAF site as it evolves. The bottom line is that we are in for a period of change.