19 June 2024

The roof of the historic hangar at Old Sarum Airfield has collapsed

The roof of the historic Grade II* listed Hangar at Old Sarum Airfield has partially collapsed.

The collapse of the roof on Hangar Three was announced on the SOS – Save Old Sarum Facebook Group, which was created by concerned residents and aviation enthusiasts to campaign against any proposed housing or development on Old Sarum Airfield.

The group, which has 1,400 members on Facebook, argues that if allowed this development “could and arguably would lead to the ruination and ultimate closure of the airfield; an airfield which was commissioned in 1918 and has served this country well in times of war and peace.”

Annie Riddle, one of the administrators of the Save Old Sarum group and a former Salisbury journalist, has campaigned for the airfield’s protection from large-scale housing development.

Speaking to Love Salisbury she said, “It is very sad to see the collapse of the roof of Hangar Three, an irreplaceable Grade II* listed historic treasure. It has been a long time coming, and neither our planning authority Wiltshire Council nor Historic England have shown themselves able to prevent it.

“This hangar is a central feature of one of the country’s best-preserved World War One airfields, which has Conservation Area status. Those whose job it is to preserve our heritage should get on with it.”

Reacting to news of the collapse, the owners of Old Sarum Airfield commented, “As custodians of Old Sarum Airfield, we have always taken the responsibilities of the listed building very seriously. We have spent considerable sums over the years trying to secure the structure and have prevented major structural damage.

“Historic England (HE) surveyed the building in August 2021 and provided us with a copy of the report in May 2022. We are working with HE to devise a plan to protect the areas they have identified at risk but regrettably, this partial collapse has occurred in the meantime. We will be meeting HE on site to agree on a plan to continue to secure the building.”

Hangar Three – roof collapse

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, explained that the state of the building had previously been raised with the owners and that Wiltshire Council expect it to have been properly maintained.

“We note with great concern the damage that has occurred to the historic hangar, the state of the building has been previously raised with the owner and we would expect that it would have been properly maintained. The property is privately owned and the responsibility to maintain the building lies with the owner.

“We understand a site meeting is scheduled to take place between Historic England’s structural engineer and the site owner’s agent to assess the condition of the building, and the potential for works to stop any further decay and restore the building to its original state.

“We intend to meet with Historic England to discuss our options once their engineer’s report has been received, we take this matter extremely seriously, the preservation of our historic heritage is of great importance,” explained Richard.

The collapse comes after years of controversy surrounding the redevelopment of Old Sarum Airfield.

In 2020, a High Court battle saw the airfield lose its appeal against the refusal of the initial planning application. The application sought to build 462 homes and create a “flying hub”, complete with a heritage centre, visitor centre, restaurant, and new control tower.

Historic England released a statement on the condition of the aircraft yesterday (7th July 2022). The statement said:

“Historic England is very disappointed to see that there has been a collapse of the roof at the Grade II* listed Hangar at Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury.

“The hangar was added to the Heritage At Risk Register in November 2020 and since then we have been working with Wiltshire Council and the owner to assess the condition of the building and push for emergency works.

“In recent months progress was made but the roof collapsed before the works were agreed and actioned.

“We are now working urgently with the owner to assess the damage and implement emergency works to resist further collapse and salvage the remains of the important Belfast roof structure.

“We will continue to provide specialist advice, including advice from our structural engineers, over the coming weeks.

“The three hangars are highly unusual survivors of the early days of aerial combat, and are listed at Grade II*.”

For now, the airfield says they are in constant contact with Historic England and will be meeting on-site in the very near future to discuss what to do in the short term while they finalise plans for a new redevelopment application.

Written by
Beth Doherty
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Written by Beth Doherty