The Warren Farm Debacle
by Rory Windass – 9th May 2020
Well, what a result indeed! I was particularly pleased to hear, this week, that Warren Farm in Southall has been saved from unlawful development. As well as being a vital open space for the public, Warren Farm acts as an airfield and is home to Warren Farm Radio Flyers (WFRF).
8½ years ago Queens Park Rangers F.C. (QPR) expressed the desire to build a first team training ground on Warren Farm. Whether you like sport or not we must remember model flying is a sport, too, so must appreciate QPR’s ideas, providing it wouldn’t infringe on the activities of others, right? Wrong! The plans for the new facilities of QPR reflected a ginormous and cumbersome area spanning most of the space at Warren Farm which is filled with meadow flowers, the protected little owls and other wildlife.
There has been, for the best part of a lot of people’s memories, a small sports facility at Warren Farm and WFRF have a negotiated arrangement in place, alike to many airfields and flying clubs around the country that share space with others. Warren Farm Radio Flyers could safely operate with the current sports facility in place and obey all of the rules for maintaining safe heights and distances (aka CAA CAP 658 which is a short way of saying, Civil Aviation Authority Civil Aviation Publication No. 658 thank goodness for abbreviations and keyboards)!
QPR’ss development of the site would force out WFRF because the new site’s buildings would be; A. too close to the airfield to operate within CAP 658; B. reduce the available airspace and; C. restrict approach and take-off distances to the prominent runway to a point where it wouldn’t be safe or easy to land. It would be like trying to land into a strong or gusty northerly at Two Tree Island every single time! Some aircraft and pilots are better at tight spots than others, admittedly, but we all know that adequate space and time is key to a successful and comfortable landing. I recall the sayings, good approach, good landing and fail to prepare, prepare to fail, big time. I also recall, a landing is a controlled crash and any landing’s a good landing, au contraire, but that’s beside the point! All in all, the looming development of Warren Farm was not to be a good one from the point of view of model flying and the general public alike who just want to exercise or picnic. Green spaces are important to the welfare of the public both mentally and physically and are rarely found in London nowadays. The lockdown for example, how to maintain social distancing in the face of Covid-19 if the site was developed and the pandemic prolonged? There wouldn’t be much room left!
QPR submitted the plans to Ealing Council for approval and it was hoped the submission be rejected. It wasn’t. The plans were set into motion confirming the doom of Warren Farm and all who use it. Bear in mind that QPR have other grounds and spaces, which could put this plan into the quite possibly a tad greed category. WFRF already used Rectory Park for flying as well, so with that in the bag there was nothing to worry about.
Then Gatwick and Heathrow happened and all hope was lost for WFRF. Rectory Park was right in the path of the Government’s new Flight Restriction Zone plans, which came into force in March 2019. With Warren Farm and Rectory Park out of the question, WFRF was set to close as a club for good as no new site could be found.
THEN! Hanwell Nature, a community environmental team, filed a case against Ealing Council because they decided against requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment when approving QPR’s plans, committing environmental vandalism. A Crowd Justice funding page was set up to assist with legal costs, £35K to be precise. This wasn’t helped by Warren Farm already being excavated for the new QPR site, time was of the essence! On 3rdApril 2020 the case went for initial hearing and The Hon. Mrs. Justice Elizabeth Laing DBE ruled in favour of Hanwell Nature allowing it to proceed to a Judicial Review hearing. Excellent news, indeed!
Since then QPR have dropped plans for Warren Farm. You can be as sceptical as you like as to why, but it’s arguably the best bit of news yet regarding the Warren Farm debacle. The Crowd Justice funding has been a huge success and has raised £28,961 from 672 pledges to date (averaging £43 per pledge).
Unfortunately, and (in a way) fortunately, this result only saves Warren Farm and doesn’t stop QPR as they have selected a yet undisclosed site for their training ground. However, it does save model flying and arrangements will be made in due course to reinstate flying activities at Warren Farm (after Covid-19 is dealt with). It’s worth listening to environmental scientists, they have a point and I am sure if Two Tree Island ever came under threat from development (though unlikely) our clubs would ask for support from others, too.
by Rory Windass – 27th January 2020
When Summer comes around, perfect opportunities for showing off our hobby, or sport – or whatever you want to call it – to the public appear, if temperatures clear 9°C! The best way of doing this, of course, is at air shows, fun fly-ins, club BBQs, socials or external events – literally, it certainly feels external when the temperatures don’t soar beyond 9! Anyway, in a time when showing off the crème de la crème of model flying is imperative to maintain a good public image, making appearances at public events is essential. One club that has kept busy this Summer is the Southend Radio-Controlled Flying Club (SRFC), based at Two Tree Island Airfield, Leigh-on-Sea. The places we have visited vary from the Canvey Island Transport Museum, to London Southend Airport, fortunately for SRFC both of which are nearby.
Avro Vulcan B2 XL426 (G-VJET) stands on the apron
Of all the things an airport can accumulate over a small bite of history, 104 years to be precise, aeroplanes are a common find… But one aircraft, a machine contemplated as early as 1945, is the amazing Avro Vulcan. The Vulcan in question: B2 XL426 (also registered as G-VJET) was last airborne on 19th December 1986, coming to Southend from RAF Scampton. It is a tremendous engineering marvel and a prime example of how good combined national efforts in aerospace engineering can work very well indeed – even though it’s a war ploughing, bombing, killing machine, too. Despite that though, the Vulcan is in all technical, artistic and aesthetic means, amazing.
Left: The display at the Visit the Vulcan Day in September, getting lots of looks from the public
Right: David Hadjicostas MBE, Branch Chair. & Ron Clifton, Branch Membership Secretary of the Shoeburyness & South Essex Branch, Royal Artillery Association stand proud with the 25lb’er gun
XL426 is operated by the Vulcan Restoration Trust (VRT) who run Visit the Vulcan Days every year. It is at these events that SRFC have been busy. At these you’ll also find the Shoeburyness & South Essex Branch Royal Artillery Association’s 25lb’er gun – an exquisitely engineered piece of military hardware dating back to before the Second World War. There is also live music from many different bands, orchestras and guest singers, mostly playing military music and war songs with a positive rhythm.
Paul Gayford of SRFC watches carefully over the display at the Canvey Island Transport Museum’s Big Wheels 2019 in October
Though XL426 might never fly again – and with the grounding of Vulcan B2 XH558 in 2015, there are now no Vulcans flying (except models of the craft). Some remain hopeful with fingers, legs and everything else crossed that a Vulcan will fly again… one day… However, despite it looking great airborne, with its dancing leap into the sky, it could be argued that the Vulcan looks even more impressive when sat still on the apron. Having time to stare, analyse and learn, XL426 offers the opportunity that this article is about. Bringing a varied display of aircraft along to the Visit the Vulcan Days has enabled SRFC to meet and network with the public and aviation professionals alike and generated much interest in model flying across all ages and generated some new members! It is this interest that is the key to unlocking aviation, in whatever shape, form or size it comes. Keeping the faith, as one pop star put it, is the most important part of maintaining our interest and showing off safe and ‘proper’ model flying to the wider community, even if the temperatures are typically British… whatever that means…
Southend Radio-Controlled Flying Club thank the Vulcan Restoration Trust and the Canvey Island Transport Museum for their hospitality, allowing us to display our interest at their various events in 2019. Do keep an eye on our website for further details and updates of our various activities here or find us on Facebook @SRCFC.
SRFC’s Static Display Team. From left – right: Rory Windass, Reg Barber, Dick Heywood, Dennis Pruce, Les Baynham & Phil Dye up close to the action!
For those readers who would like to know more about the different organisations SRFC have been involved with, then please visit their websites here:
Vulcan Restoration Trust: Vulcan Restoration Trust
Canvey Island Transport Museum: Canvey Island Transport Museum
Photographs courtesy of Reg Barber, Niall Windass, Rory Windass and Pam Marsden
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