DOZY’S RAMBLES: Is airport a gem or an eyesore?

The viewing area outside the terminal building
The viewing area outside the terminal building

WE are lucky in Adur to have one of the only surviving art deco airport buildings in the UK – the oldest airport in the country, established in 1910 – but sadly it is in an awful state.

Why has this iconic building been allowed to almost rot away? Purely down to lack of investment, I would have thought, certainly not down to lack of use or popularity.

Prior to the second world war, Shoreham Airport was tipped to be the next major airport outside of London, with many European airlines using it prior to the war due to works being carried out at London’s airport. Soon after the outbreak of war, the airport became operational for the RAF.

I could go on and on about the attributes and advantages of this site. I could mention the building and grounds have been used by numerous film companies and television producers. I could mention the amazing achievements of the late Don Bean and his team, who brought to Shoreham the number one and biggest charity airshow in the world, as well as the second biggest airshow in the world, how over a million people have enjoyed the experience of these shows. Thank goodness all that is seen is outdoors, people hardly notice the peeling exterior of the terminal (terminal...quite a good name when you think of it!), or the badly decaying interior where parts of the ornate painted ceiling have collapsed.

So many people have asked me ‘why don’t they put a railway station at Shoreham Airport?’. Well, there was a halt on the West Coastway Line that was opened in 1910, just in front of the main building. In 1935, the station changed name from Bungalow Town Halt to Shoreham Airport, but was closed in 1940 and never reopened after the war.

So where are we now and where do we go? In 2006 Brighton, Hove and Worthing proved they were not able to run the airport, making massive losses, forcing them to sell it off to property company Erinaceous on a 150-year lease at a cut price. Erinaceous went into administration in 2008 with debts of £250million and the leasehold was sold to Albermarle for a nominal £10.

Just what has the taxpayer got out of this? Not a lot I suggest. Albermale was committed to bring the terminal up to scratch, together with other projects around the field. There was a legal requirement included in the 2006 contract to regenerate the airport buildings. It was agreed to invest a minimum of £4million on projects contained in the airport lease. If the lessee defaulted on the commitment, then they had to pay a further sum up to £1million to the two councils on or before September 2013.

September came and went, the building went into even more disrepair, Albemarle tried to purchase the freehold, but the councils refused the approach.

Now we enter yet another phase as Brighton City Airport Ltd (BCAL) took over operations from Albemarle on May 2.

I hope and pray that maybe at last we will see the much-needed repairs to the terminal building. I hope the bakery company who appear to have almost taken over the entire public area of the terminal, including the viewing area outside the building (which in the past had been very much a public viewing area!) will put something back into the building as well, certainly as they appear to have built up an extremely good business on the premises and a first-class reputation for the property over the past couple of years. Hopefully the new owners will be in discussion over this.