"They want to dump a parking lot on paradise"

January 13 2013

Airfield campaigner, local councillor and aerospace worker Dave Tiley reflects on what closure will mean for Filton

"They want to dump a parking lot on paradise"

Here, airfield campaigner, local councillor and aerospace worker Dave Tiley reflects on what closure will mean for Filton and the wider area

Dave TileyAnd so the battle is lost, after eighteen months being part of the Save Filton Airfield Group, I was here on the last day wondering if we’ve lost the war too. Ironic to use terms like ‘war’ when our forebears fought and died here on this Airfield and the A38 not just fighting for Filton, but Great Britain and the whole of Europe for our very liberty.

I often wonder what our brave, selfless heroes of the past here would make of our local council signing it all off at the stroke of a pen to build homes for those who can’t afford them on this very land they died on.

It breaks my heart, and all at SGC know that, as they witnessed my emotional plea for Filton and its manufacturing future when I spoke at their last meeting on the subject.

I had the privileged but unenviable task of following Sir George White as a speaker there, Sir George spoke so eloquently of Filton’s great historic past and why it should have a future that I was absolutely choked to speak after him.

As I looked into the eyes of the SGC Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors voting unanimously for closure I realised I was speaking to people you just can’t reach. What can truly motivate councillors who wish to dump a parking lot on paradise? Keeping their seats and places in the party by doing as their whip and MPs instruct them? Or keeping houses from being built in their own rural backwaters, dumping them on gridlocked Filton and Patchway instead? 

How can every single one of them to a man and woman all be of the same sheeplike mind?

What price individuality? What price the courage of their own convictions?

Filton is in my blood, my heart, my soul, I’ve followed my father and two grandfathers in working here, as have so many. I even met my wife working here.

As a boy I would watch Concorde fly across from my Monks Park School class window, I never dreamed I would get to fly on this greatest of our country’s technological marvels, but a chance win gave me that most cherished of prizes and a day I’ll never forget.

But it’s not just personal nostalgia for me or so many other campaigners.

My interest is in a manufacturing future. The cluster of national iconic aerospace companies here have underpinned the regions economy for decades and longer, as the site has been here over 100 years.

It’s a national asset as well as a local treasure, and has given mass employment to tens of thousands of Bristolians with that, attracting people and investment here, along with the spin-off back-up companies, research centres and colleges that have come here in support of and on the back of Filton.

I want the same opportunities for today’s young people, tomorrow’s skilled men and women, I want them to have a decent future to look forward to, with a good wage and a job for the long term. Why are we risking that here?

This is a regional jewel in the crown, anywhere else would fight tooth and nail to keep it and grow it, knowing the value it brings to the local economy, but no, ‘we do things differently here’ SGC tell us.

I now live in hope that manufacturing will remain for the long term despite SGC’s failings, but I wonder how we can compete for future work packages of any subsequent scale as the houses move in around us with no room for expansion and we lose the economic viability of having the wingsets and parts fly in and out, unlike our rivals who maintain their airfields and infrastructures for some of the most lucrative work in the world.

Where are the people of vision fighting our corner, where are the Government in all of this, talking up manufacturing while ignoring our argument, Vince Cable was personally handed the full story and our version of events we view as truly independent facts.

Vince Cable’s view?  You tell me, as he and Whitehall have cocked a deaf ‘un to this story, despite even the Times business pages running and supporting our story after we marched here for the airfield last year.

There are people who are interested, but they have been knocking on BAE’s closed door, and there are people of vision here.

Further information and alternatives can be found at the Save Filton Airfield website www.savefiltonairfield.org where the campaign will go on until the last nail goes in the coffin.

We need a white knight or a significant donor for a judicial review now, but carry on we must, in the hope that someone somewhere will stop this atrocity before it’s too late and we all look back in regret at what was thrown away here for Filton, Bristol, the South West and the UK.