The ArgusShoreham airport has been grounded by inertia (From The Argus)

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Shoreham airport has been grounded by inertia

The Argus: Shoreham airport has been grounded by inertia Shoreham airport has been grounded by inertia

Shoreham has the oldest working airport in Britain – a green space near the sea much loved by locals and aviation enthusiasts.

Magnificent men in their flying machines flew from there during the early days of powered flight before the First World War.

The handsome Art Deco terminal building is often used in period films to represent some other airport long since swallowed up by suburbia such as Croydon.

When Shoreham airport started, it was meant to be one of Britain’s leading aviation centres with good transport links by rail and road.

Those dreams have been dashed by inertia, which has seen many other airports in the region prosper, notably Gatwick, even though conditions were much less favourable for them. While Gatwick, a former horse racing track, galloped ahead, Shoreham slept.

Part of the problems was that for many years Shoreham was owned by three councils, Brighton, Hove and Worthing but not by the authority where it is based – Adur.

This often meant that any initiative designed to bring more planes into Shoreham was opposed by local councillors representing concerned neighbours.

Other councillors on the joint airport committee often had little knowledge of business and even less about aviation. They tended to look backwards rather than ahead.

So if a camel is a horse designed by a committee, you are unlikely with an airport committee to get anything more modern than a Sopwith Camel.

While airports all over the country profited from the post war boom in air travel, Shoreham did not. The airport made a thumping loss year after year.

Little effort was made to start services from Shoreham to northern Europe and the Channel Islands, which would undoubtedly have prospered given the right impetus.

Meanwhile 30 miles up the road, Jersey European Airways fared well at Gatwick, eventually moving many services into another regional airport at Southampton and became the successful carrier flybe.

While Gatwick became the first major airport to link rail and air travel, British Fail closed the station at Shoreham Airport through lack of custom.

Gatwick was placed on the motorway map with the M23 while Shoreham’s northern entrance was from a cul de sac near an ancient toll bridge long since closed to traffic.

The southern approach was and is from the A259 on a country lane which includes a bridge so low that it is impassable for large lorries or double decker buses.

It took Shoreham 70 years to build a hard runway instead of a grassy strip which could not be used in wet weather, ruling it out for most of the winter.

But by this time its length was restricted by roads and housing so that it could not take many, if any, jets.

Eventually the councils, by this time down to only two thanks to the amalgamation of Brighton and Hove, decided to let private enterprise have a go.

And private enterprise proved to be no better. One firm ran into financial difficulties while another promised much but was slow on delivery.

Now there are worries that cash may not be forthcoming to mend major defects in the terminal building, and even that the whole airport may not last much longer as a viable concern.

With announcements expected imminently, lovers of the little airport are preparing themselves for a fight to save it if necessary.

Shoreham is not just a place where private planes abound. It provides many jobs connected with aviation.

It is also a large open space in an area which has suffered more than most from unimaginative housing.

Already developers are circling round the airport, ready to come down and build hundreds more houses. The amount of money involved would be measured in millions, extremely tempting for cash-strapped councils.

Go to Shoreham on a sunny Sunday and all seems right with the aviation world as people potter about in planes and others get a good view of them from the popular terminal café.

But Shoreham may be paying the price for many years of doing too little too late in a highly competitive industry. It may not survive with its present level of business.

It is just possible that it could expand to become a smaller version of other regional airports in the south which have done well, such as those at Bournemouth and Southend.

Without a considerable injection of cash to create an airport that can be commercially successful, Shoreham could be grounded for good.

Comments (8)

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8:24am Wed 16 Apr 14

spa301 says...

Is the old duffer Trimingham really lamenting that Shoreham missed out to Gatwick!? Are we meant to be disappointed that a huge International airport isn't on our doorstep? Personally I'm quite happy to take the short journey up to Gatwick. Isn't it high time this old fossil of a journalist was put out to grass?
Is the old duffer Trimingham really lamenting that Shoreham missed out to Gatwick!? Are we meant to be disappointed that a huge International airport isn't on our doorstep? Personally I'm quite happy to take the short journey up to Gatwick. Isn't it high time this old fossil of a journalist was put out to grass? spa301
  • Score: 12

10:38am Wed 16 Apr 14

Camp Nigel says...

He has a nice beard though.
He has a nice beard though. Camp Nigel
  • Score: 4

2:17pm Wed 16 Apr 14

Surrey jim says...

If its a toss up between affordable housing or somewhere one can park their private plane, then I'm all for the land being used to increase housing stocks.
If its a toss up between affordable housing or somewhere one can park their private plane, then I'm all for the land being used to increase housing stocks. Surrey jim
  • Score: -6

5:04pm Wed 16 Apr 14

Martin999 says...

This is the usual negative reporting by Trimingham. Soon to be seen on the TV programme "grumpy old men"
This is the usual negative reporting by Trimingham. Soon to be seen on the TV programme "grumpy old men" Martin999
  • Score: 6

7:51pm Wed 16 Apr 14

melee says...

So one minute it's how wonderful that we have a 'green space by the sea' for a little airport and how wonderful that it has been left alone thus allowing the handsome art deco terminal to survive, unlike so many others. The next it's such a shame that we didn't bulldoze it all years ago and cover it in enough concrete to rival Gatwick.
So one minute it's how wonderful that we have a 'green space by the sea' for a little airport and how wonderful that it has been left alone thus allowing the handsome art deco terminal to survive, unlike so many others. The next it's such a shame that we didn't bulldoze it all years ago and cover it in enough concrete to rival Gatwick. melee
  • Score: 8

10:23pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Stig Thundercock says...

"The southern approach was and is from the A259 on a country lane which includes a bridge so low that it is impassable for large lorries or double decker buses."

Which is why they built a northern one from the main A27 where double decker buses and lorries can pass with ease from a road that is ten times busier than the A259.

"But by this time its length was restricted by roads and housing so that it could not take many, if any, jets."

Er.. it was restricted by the railway at the southern end and the A27 at the northern end both of which were there before the airport was built. Not quite sure where this housing is.
"The southern approach was and is from the A259 on a country lane which includes a bridge so low that it is impassable for large lorries or double decker buses." Which is why they built a northern one from the main A27 where double decker buses and lorries can pass with ease from a road that is ten times busier than the A259. "But by this time its length was restricted by roads and housing so that it could not take many, if any, jets." Er.. it was restricted by the railway at the southern end and the A27 at the northern end both of which were there before the airport was built. Not quite sure where this housing is. Stig Thundercock
  • Score: 2

1:17pm Fri 18 Apr 14

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit says...

Stig Thundercock wrote:
"The southern approach was and is from the A259 on a country lane which includes a bridge so low that it is impassable for large lorries or double decker buses."

Which is why they built a northern one from the main A27 where double decker buses and lorries can pass with ease from a road that is ten times busier than the A259.

"But by this time its length was restricted by roads and housing so that it could not take many, if any, jets."

Er.. it was restricted by the railway at the southern end and the A27 at the northern end both of which were there before the airport was built. Not quite sure where this housing is.
You're correct. The only 'new' housing is the Mash Barn estate which was built in the 1960s. (I lived there!). However the site itself was always too small and that was the main reason it lost out to Gatwick, although Mr Trimingham is correct about the problems of joint ownership and the NIMBY concerns of local residents. (When I lived on the Mash Barn estate we were often asked to sign petitions against the hard runway. My mum always refused though as her husband's job depended on the airport)'.

All in all though a good article from Mr Trimingham and a pleasant change from his usual 'modern life is rubbish' tone.
[quote][p][bold]Stig Thundercock[/bold] wrote: "The southern approach was and is from the A259 on a country lane which includes a bridge so low that it is impassable for large lorries or double decker buses." Which is why they built a northern one from the main A27 where double decker buses and lorries can pass with ease from a road that is ten times busier than the A259. "But by this time its length was restricted by roads and housing so that it could not take many, if any, jets." Er.. it was restricted by the railway at the southern end and the A27 at the northern end both of which were there before the airport was built. Not quite sure where this housing is.[/p][/quote]You're correct. The only 'new' housing is the Mash Barn estate which was built in the 1960s. (I lived there!). However the site itself was always too small and that was the main reason it lost out to Gatwick, although Mr Trimingham is correct about the problems of joint ownership and the NIMBY concerns of local residents. (When I lived on the Mash Barn estate we were often asked to sign petitions against the hard runway. My mum always refused though as her husband's job depended on the airport)'. All in all though a good article from Mr Trimingham and a pleasant change from his usual 'modern life is rubbish' tone. Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit
  • Score: 0

6:55am Sat 19 Apr 14

Old Ladys Gin says...

Surrey jim wrote:
If its a toss up between affordable housing or somewhere one can park their private plane, then I'm all for the land being used to increase housing stocks.
Brilliant idea on a piece of land at or below sea level and which frequently floods.
The airport is also home to a lot of businesses and a college which tutors the engineers of tomorrow; people desperately needed. A successful flying school teaches young men and women the skills they will need to move goods and people around the world.
One of the leading automotive research companies Ricardo is also based there.
[quote][p][bold]Surrey jim[/bold] wrote: If its a toss up between affordable housing or somewhere one can park their private plane, then I'm all for the land being used to increase housing stocks.[/p][/quote]Brilliant idea on a piece of land at or below sea level and which frequently floods. The airport is also home to a lot of businesses and a college which tutors the engineers of tomorrow; people desperately needed. A successful flying school teaches young men and women the skills they will need to move goods and people around the world. One of the leading automotive research companies Ricardo is also based there. Old Ladys Gin
  • Score: 6

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