Recently South Gloucestershire Council approved plans to build thousands of new homes over Filton Airfield, a decision that many locals & I find deeply disappointing and a decision that makes a mockery of the historic connections between Filton and aerospace.
During South Gloucestershire’s public consultation on the future of Filton Airfield I submitted a reply (South Glos FA Consultation). At the time it hadn’t come to light that BAE had made that profit by increasing landing fees but I still reject the premise that BAE did everything in its power to advertise the airfield & achieve profit.
Understandably there has been a degree of outrage from residents that it appears South Glos Council officials & BAE were actively colluding to close Filton Airfield, especially in regards to some within the council deliberately & undemocratically undermining Labour’s valid concerns about the possibility of redevelopment. The full document revealing the collusion can be seen on the South Glos Labour website (http://www.sglabour.org.uk/labour-fury-at-dodgy-dossier).
Given my own MPs (Jack Lopresti) strongly-pro Filton Airfield redevelopment stance I wondered how deep his involvement in the pro-development lobby had been & filed a series of Freedom of Information Requests, several of which I’m still awaiting reply on***. As some of you may be aware David MacLean attempted to pass an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act back in 2007 to protect MP’s correspondence from FOI Requests which ultimately failed to pass the Lords & somewhat muddied the waters on what you can request under the act & what you can’t.
After consulting several Parliamentary contacts who weren’t entirely certain where the line was I decided to FOI Jack Lopresti’s office & request correspondence between him & South Glos or BAE in relation to Filton Airfield. As it turns out (Since I’m presuming Jack did his research before replying) that is where the line lies, you cannot directly request an MP’s correspondence (Though I believe you can request correspondence from Government Departments between that department & specific MPs, which is an interesting loophole).
After contacting Jack this is the reply I received: Reply from Lopresti on FA
To which Jack Lopresti responded: http://ddom2006.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/jl-reply-to-far.png
In a further development since I replied to Mr Lopresti the hundreds of jobs lined up for Filton are now confirmed to be headed overseas as widely suspected (http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Jobs-earmarked-Bristol-going-overseas/story-14389794-detail/story.html) which is obviously a massive disappointment for the area. Both Government & industry must be prepared to make the case for British manufacturing & Filton’s aerospace industry but sadly both are increasingly failing to do so; The opening of a new Boeing office in Filton is a welcome opportunity but when taken with the bigger picture of the loss of Filton Airfield & a large job-creating contract there’s still work to be done in ensuring Filton’s aerospace industry has a long & prosperous future.
***My two initial FOI Requests have now been answered:
Answer from Department of Business, Innovation & Skills: BIS FA FOI
Answer from the Ministry of Defence: http://ddom2006.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/screen-shot-2012-01-20-at-03-38-12.png