RAF Halton Development – comment from the Halton Development Community Interest Company
The recent consultation held by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (the DIO),invited local communities to comment on the latest plans for Halton. We urge anyone who has not seen the plans or made a comment to do so. The plans can be seen atwww.rafhaltonconsultation.co.uk
The HDCIC will make a formal response shortly,whichwill be published onourwebsite.
Meanwhile, weunderstandthat the DIO hasa job to do, a job thatitcarriesout across many sites across the country on behalf of the MOD. The DIOistasked with disposing of the site whilst being able to demonstrate that the community has been consulted, which it does through consultation events, providingtop level, early planssothat planning permission is granted by AVDC. They will, understandably, deliver ‘safe’ plans that meet housing targets and some community requirements such as green spaces and community facilities. Suchplansare rarelybold or inspirational. Equally, we must recognise that the final development usually does not match the original plans – best laid plans invariably change, for many reasons.
Our aims at the HDCIC remain constant. To be an influencingandactivepartner to the DIO and AVDC, but with an agenda to deliverbest in class place-making for the community, to createaninspiring and aspirational place for all.
We believe thatby inspiring the community and listening to everyone’s views and sharing this vision, we can actually create a better space, with better facilities, that appeals to more, diverse groups of people – improving the potential returns theDIO and theExchequerrequire from the site.
Opportunities pre closure
As thefullclosure has now been delayed until 2025, our focus ison projects that could be started much sooner. Many facilities are under utilised or not used at all. Allowing the site to deteriorate is in noone’sinterests. For the HDCIC, doing nothing for 6 years is not an optionwhen there arereal opportunitiesthat can be started far sooner:
A hub to connectusthrough rest and play
TheRAF NuffieldPavilionis a tremendous asset that could be better used by both the RAF and local groups, IF it was made accessibleto all, offered meeting and event rooms, and was able to offer catering facilities. Groups that could benefit from this,alongside the RAF,are:
•Local sports clubs, such asfootball andhockeywhouse the grass andall-weatherpitchesfor training and matches
•Countryside and ramblinggroupsaccessingthe Wendover Arm canal, the paths to the local parishesandWendover Woods
This also providesavillage green andfacilities forHalton village, helping withitssense of place.Such an approach is working well at Aston Clinton, where the ‘Your café in the park’ is run for and supported by the wider community and the football club.
Promoting environmentally friendly connections
Cycling is one of the fastest growing and most popular participation sports/activity.It suits all ages, genders and abilities.
The Parishes of Wendover, Halton, WestonTurvilleand Aston Clinton all have localised cycling facilities: Wendover Woods, Aston Hill and the Canal being the most obvious.Yet cycling within and between the parishes or the localised routes requires road usage. Whilst cycling is growing in popularity, the greatest barrier to increased growth is concern over safety on the roads.
Our proposal is to build alocalcycling network that links the communities,other sports and recreational facilities, and links to transport hubs such as Wendover Station, encouraging students, commuters, local workers, visitors, families and enthusiasts to travel by bike. Leaving the car at home will ease local congestion and parking challenges and, of course, the health benefits are well known.
Introducing cycleways like those you see throughout Europe would be a huge step forward-dedicated cycle-paths running parallel to waterways(working with the Canal River Trust and Wendover Arm Trustideally)and paths, or shared paths wide enough for walkers/pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy. The existing towpath already offers this opportunity, butit’s unmade and too narrow in sections.
This will build on an infrastructure that is alreadyin place in parts, but making it excellentwillbring recreation, tourism and connectivity to the communities. It could also link to the Aylesbury Garden Town project.
Such a scheme could be designed holistically and then delivered gradually, bringing both short and long term, sustainable benefits to our community.
Project Sport for All
Connectingall ages, abilities and gendersin health
The proposal is to develop these facilities for the benefit of the local community, for participation sport, for local teams andorganisations.
Development of any section ofthis sportreal estate has tremendous benefits. These are vital green spaces promoting numerous health and mental well-being advantages, and are currently actively used by local sportsand social societies across Halton, WestonTurville, Wendover, Aston Clinton and beyond.
A first stage is to lay out additional football pitches for youth football (especially promoting girls’ football), install a second floodlight astro pitch for hockey (while also serving multi-sports including football) and develop the Nuffield Pavilion facility.
Stage 2 and beyond
Subsequent stages are to provide facilities for indoor and outdoor cricket, with a design integrating the currently laid cricket pitch and adding new ones.
To support visitingteams,we wouldrepurpose the Sergeant’sMess(note the DIO plan to build housing here, however)or other facility/space asnofrillshotelaccommodation.
All these plans embrace disability sports with exciting prospects for tie-ins with Stoke Mandeville.
Thisproposal buildson Halton’s current uniqueness as a hub of sporting and physical well-being activity for the entire community and,potentially,for the RAF.
Creating employment throughenterprise and creativity
The ambition of theHDCIC is to bring the workshops back into productive use.We recognise that, under the current DIO plans, the workshops will be demolished for housing. We believe, however, there is still an opportunity to utilise them in the meantime, and this opportunity could include the airfcraft hangars.
There is opportunity forfood production and markets; manufacturing and production engineering around the automotive and aeronautical industries; building film sets andpost-production, or general enterprise space for the creative industries. We see this as the incubator for the widest range of small-scale activities by giving these nascent industries incentives to start up and grow in the neighbourhood.
There is considerable initial interest, including from skills partners and the film sector to achieve this quickly.
Demonstrating how we can createnew forms of housingto meet tomorrow’s needs
The HDCIC still retains a firm interest in developing their community-based housing offer and will be applying to Homes England’s Community Fund for support in testing its feasibilityand working with the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust to make it affordable. We recognise this could take time to negotiate with the DIO, given the delayed closure of the base, but we will continue to pursue our ambitions to show how we can build a greatcommunitywith relevant housing to meet the needs of local people and new arrivals.
All ofthese proposals support our overall visionto promote:
1.Learning and Well-being
2.Creative arts and culture
3.Industry and Enterprise
4.Heritage and Countryside
These proposals will be put forward to the DIO, RAF and AVDC by us. We believe they are positive and realistic, keeping the site alive and helping point the way towards the Halton of the future.
To support the HDCIC, please sign up or get in touchif you are particularly interested in, or have experience of, any of the ‘early use’ proposalsmentioned
The HDCIC Committee