The sale of the airfield will secure the future of the site and the provision of employment opportunities for the benefit of the local economy.
The Minister said:
I’m satisfied that the disposal of the airfield in this way will maximise the economic benefits to the local community and bring jobs to an area which needs them.
Llanbedr airfield lies within the Snowdonia National Park and has until very recently been a busy military facility. I am content that this new facility fully complies with our duty to have due regard for the purposes for which the National Park was designated, and that this less intensive use will not have an adverse effect on the conservation of the area.
The grant of a 125 year lease is conditional on Kemble Air Services first obtaining from the local planning authority all planning permissions, certificates and consents authorising the use permitted by the lease.
Kemble Air Services will form a new company, Llanbedr Airfield Estates, to operate the site to accommodate private flying and to let the many empty buildings on the site for business uses which would create local jobs. A number of businesses have already expressed interest in occupying premises on the site.
Llanbedr Airfield was originally built in 1940 on low lying land between the mountains of Snowdonia and the sea. The main runway is aligned so that approach and landing paths are mainly over the sea.
Llanbedr was officially opened as an RAF camp in 1941 and was used during the war by both the RAF and US Air Force. After the war it was used for armament training and, latterly, for Hawk pilot training and for Eurofighter trials.
Between 1998 and the Airfield’s closure by the Ministry of Defence in 2004 there were approximately 53,000 aircraft movements in and out of Llanbedr.
In 2002, when the Ministry of Defence announced its withdrawal from Llanbedr, the former Welsh Development Agency, in collaboration with Gwynedd Council, commissioned a report from KPMG on the impact of closure.
The KPMG report identified continued aerospace and avionic activity as the most viable future for the site having regard to local job creation and protection and environmental factors such as the presence of wildlife habitats and conserving the historic avionic heritage of the site.
In 2006, the WDA purchased the site to secure the future of the airfield - and in 2007, the Assembly Government began marketing the site.
A bid from Kemble Air Services, a very experienced and successful operator of a number of former military facilities, was ultimately selected as the best in terms of delivering sustainable economic benefits to the area.
The proposals for the airfield were opposed by the Snowdonia Society but backed by Gwynedd Council and Llanbedr Community Council. Petitions for and against the proposal were submitted to the National Assembly. An e-petition generated by the Snowdonia society attracted just 156 signatures - while a petition in favour of the proposal generated in the local community attracted 1,240 names.
16 December 2008