BICESTER Gliding Club may cease to operate at a historic Bicester airfield as it deems current plans proposed by its owners under its new lease as ‘unviable’.

In 2013 Bicester Motion, then called Bicester Heritage, acquired RAF Bicester – which has been an active airfield since 1927 – including the land on which Bicester Gliding Club runs.

The club has taught young people how to fly gliders and powered planes since 2004 but may cease to operate from the airfield off Skimmingdish Lane from July 1 after it disagreed with arrangements under the new lease.

Bicester Motion says it wanted to end the club’s 'exclusive use' of the airfield and become the 'aviation operator' at the site, proposing that the club shares the airfield and facilities alongside other activities.

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This would mean the club would have to book days in advance when they would want to use the airfield.

But the gliding group - which claims to be the UK’s second busiest gliding centre - says this is not a ‘club model’ and it would rely on there being enough members interested in order for it to work.

Despite Bicester Motion saying the model is ‘flexible and attractive’, the club thinks otherwise and is keen to come up with a better solution.

Chairman, Peter Harvey, said: "The lease termination caught us by surprise and we're now under a tight timescale to work out what to do. The club has overseen aviation at the airfield and what Bicester Motion needs to understand is that whoever operates the airfield must do so safely.

"We never expected exclusivity. They gave us the notice and we respect that. We're hoping Bicester Motion will offer something that works that we can then put to our members."

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The gliding group expressed its concerns last year about Bicester Motion’s masterplan to become an ‘automotive resort’, particularly about the proposed ‘test track’ on the airfield.

In a message issued to club members last week, Mr Harvey said: “It is our unanimous view that the club would not be viable under the proposed new model from BM - we simply would not retain, or attract, sufficient membership to cover the ongoing financial and operational overhead.

“The vagaries of the UK weather require a more flexible approach.”

Membership remains in force until the end of June and with its relationship with Bicester Motion remaining ‘cordial’, it ‘fully anticipates’ continuing operations to the end of its lease on June 30.

The club will call an extraordinary general meeting to hear any proposals from club members who feel they can form a new club under Bicester Motion’s new arrangements.

Mr Harvey went on to say in his message: “It’s with a heavy heart I bring this news. Many of you have put amazing effort into aviation from Bicester and its development. We've made considerable investment in good faith to the facilities following many years of continued operation.

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“New equipment, extended operations, better access and opportunities, the best UK location - an acknowledged and valued local amenity. An historic gem amongst the UK light aviation world.”

Bicester Motion says the club not renewing the lease is a ‘great shame’.

Dan Geoghegan, Chief Executive of Bicester Motion, said: “Whilst we are very excited by the possibilities that aviation can offer for Bicester, it is a great shame that the Club has decided that it can no longer continue without exclusive use of the Airfield.

“We have been strong supporters of the Club, heavily investing and offering them very flexible, affordable facilities over the last seven years, but the loss of a key tenant does demonstrate our concern over viability for small airfields and their users.

“Whilst this is the end of one chapter, it is the opening of a new one and, with the support of the aviation community, we are committed to maintaining flying at Bicester and look forward to welcoming gliders and powered aircraft to the skies in the future."

Bicester Gliding Club has asked Bicester Motion to grant an ‘operational agreement’ to cover the remainder of the 2020 season, including its popular annual regional competition in July.