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Old Sarum Airfield

Wiltshire Council successful in Old Sarum Airfield legal battle

Wiltshire Council has won a legal case brought by Old Sarum Airfield Ltd over an alleged breach of contract regarding an unsuccessful planning application on the site.

The applicant sought to claim more than £43 million from the council because it alleged that an agreement between the two parties to assist and facilitate the planning application had been breached.

As well as the claim for breach of contract, Old Sarum Airfield Ltd also claimed that the council was negligent and sought financial restitution.

All claims were dismissed in an oral judgement by the High Court in May this year without going to trial.

Nick Botterill, cabinet member for strategic planning, said: “We’re delighted that these dubious claims were dismissed without going to trial earlier this year, as they had no reasonable prospect of success.

“The planning application in question, for housing on Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury, went through the fair and proper planning process and was originally rejected. It then failed an appeal and also was subject to an unsuccessful judicial review.

“The judge’s decision was made a few months ago, and now we have passed the appeal period, we can move forward safe in the knowledge that the proceedings cannot go any further.

“This unsuccessful claim could have cost Wiltshire taxpayers a significant amount of money, but the court ordered that Old Sarum Airfield Ltd must pay for our costs, officers’ time, and the overall costs of the proceedings, which will be significant once fully determined.”

A spokesperson for Old Sarum Airfield told Business Biscuit: “We are surprised that Wiltshire Council has made this statement given that the full details of the outcome are not yet publicly available.

“We are unable to make any further comment until we have the full written details of the judgement.”

In August 2020, the firm explained: “The airfield owners had come to an agreement with Salisbury District Council – now Wiltshire Council – in 2007 to dramatically reduce flying movements in return for permission to develop some parts of their 100+ acres of land adjacent to the airfield for housing.

“As part of the agreement, the airfield submitted a planning application in 2015 for a mixed-use heritage-based development creating a flying hub with associated services as well as the RAeS National Collection of Aviation artefacts, a new heritage centre, visitor centre, restaurant, hangars, new control tower and 462 high-quality homes.

“In 2007 the airfield complied with the request from the council to reduce flying movements and eliminate noisy aircraft plus all night flying whilst they progressed their plans in collaboration with the local authority.

“This action caused large operational losses every year due to the reduction in flying required by the Council, all of which the airfield’s owners were prepared to ‘swallow’ in order to save the future of the airfield via its development plans.”