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Conservation Area Status Requested for Dunsfold Airfield

Published on: 8 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 8 Apr, 2017

Dunsfold Airfield

A request for Dunsfold Airfield to be designated a conservation area is being considered by Waverley Borough Council (WBC).

And it is understood that Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, is in the process of evaluating at least 10 historic structures on the airfield site for possible listed building status.

If the conservation area designation and listings are granted it is likely to constrain or prevent plans for a major development, for nearly 2,000 houses, on the site. The planning application, approved by WBC in December 2016, has been “called in” by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid.

A plan of the proposed Dunsfold Airfield development. Image from Dunsfold Park’s website.

The impact of large number of extra houses is already of concern to some Guildford Borough residents who use the A281 Shalford Road and believe that the extra traffic will further congest what is already one of Guildford’s busiest roads. The A281 passes through the town centre and feeds the central gyratory directly.

The concern is shared by Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton, who said: “I remain concerned that local infrastructure cannot support a development of this scale in this location.”

According to the Waverley Borough Council website: “The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that when considering the designation of Conservation Areas (CAs), Local Planning Authorities should ensure that any area justifies such status to ensure that the concept of conservation is not devalued through the designation of areas that lack special interest.

“It is important to note that the emphasis of control in CAs is not on preventing development, but on managing change and encouraging the enhancement of the area. This allows a CA to accommodate appropriate positive change that will harmonise with the special architectural or historic qualities of the area, thus protecting its special character.”

The council webpage includes a link to an online questionnaire for those who wish to comment on the request.

Another view of Dunsfold Airfield (click to enlarge) – Photo Dunsfold Airfield History Society

A Dunsfold Airfield History Society has also been formed. In a press release it says it will: “…be concerned with every aspect of the historic events that are associated with the former military aerodrome as well as its still-existing physical assets. This includes:

  • Its origins as a Canadian-built WW2 bomber airfield
  • Association with the Berlin Air Lift
  • Early post-war civil aviation (“Skyways”)
  • The development of some iconic British fighter jets (the Hawk, the Hunter, and perhaps most importantly, the Harrier jump jet)
  • The modern-day use of the aerodrome for major events such as Wings and Wheels’ and as the Top Gear track and studio

A spokesperson for the society said: “We are passionate about keeping alive the amazing history of this special site for future generations.

“Because of its largely secret past – once being a military installation covered by the Official Secrets Act, and more recently, in private ownership with restricted access to the public – we believe now is the time to let the public be fully involved in learning about its past, celebrating its fascinating intact infrastructure, and engaging with its future.

“This is about the people who worked here, the events they got caught up in, and the setting of this extensive piece of WW2 infrastructure in the quiet Surrey Wealden countryside.

“Some people are surprised to know that former military airfields can, and do, become designated as conservation areas. This is because these areas are not just about old buildings. They have a much wider role to play than that.”

Another aspect of concern, felt by some, is the part the airfield plays in regional infrastructure. Rod Simpson, Chairman of the Air-Britain Trust, recently wrote to The Daily Telegraph: “Small airfields in south-east England are under threat. Fairoaks, Redhill, Manston, and Dunsfold have either been sold or are under offer to housing developers, which see them as as easy pieces of land for building.

“These airfields are not the domain of playboy private jet owners: they are a vital part of infrastructure. Without them, police and ambulance helicopters would have no maintenance and operating bases.

“Above all, pilots start their training at these airfields, and closure would result in huge pressure as demand for pilots grows. Soon, few general aviation airfields will be left in the South East.

“The government must act and deny any planning applications which threaten this vital resource.”

See also: Dunsfold Planning Application ‘Called In’


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Responses to Conservation Area Status Requested for Dunsfold Airfield

  1. Philip Moore Reply

    April 10, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Dunsfold as an airfield played a significant role in our aviation heritage especially where Hawker aircraft are concerned. For this reason I wholeheartedly reject the proposal for any development other than aviation heritage at the site.

    Fingers crossed for a successful outcome.

  2. Jeffrey Robinson Reply

    April 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I think this society is a good initiative. I’m sure there are other secrets buried on the airfield. I have completed the Waverley Conservation Area questionnaire. I support the designation of a conservation area.

  3. Bryan Gibson Reply

    January 9, 2023 at 5:28 pm

    I am the son of sadly deceased BOAC Senior Captain Alan Gibson and I wholeheartedly agree with permanently protecting Surrey’s old airfields.

    As a child I must have watched almost every brand new Vickers Vanguard, BAC 111, VC10 and Trident fly past my bedroom window in Maitland Close, West Byfleet, on the shortest of maiden hops to their test airfield at Wisley. Please let us not lose Britain’s priceless aviation heritage forever.

  4. Paul Robinson Reply

    January 11, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    You won’t have seen any Trident aircraft Bryan, they were build and tested at Hatfield.

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