Defence and Ancillary Structures at RAF Bicester
Case study: Launton, Bicester, Oxfordshire OX26 5HA (South East)
List entry number: 1021455
Background and history
RAF Bicester was built under Sir Hugh Trenchard's 1920s Home Defence Expansion Scheme. It is the most complete and best preserved RAF airbase surviving from the interwar period. It includes the most strongly representative bomber station and the best bomber airfield dating from prior to 1945.
The site consists of a technical site and a separate domestic site. The technical site contains the flying field, hangers and other associated buildings. The domestic site is where the officers and men stationed on the airfield were housed.
Both sites were designated a conservation area in 2002. Between them, both sites contain 36 grade II listed buildings. There is a scheduled monument on the technical site.
The domestic site was in use by the Ministry Of Defence (MOD) until relatively recently as offices. The buildings were therefore in good condition and were sold to a developer in 2010. Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission have been granted for conversion to residential use.
In late March 2013, the sale of the technical site to Bicester Heritage Ltd (BH Ltd) was completed. This removed RAF Bicester and the southern bomb stores from MOD ownership. BH Ltd is now using the majority of the technical site for the repair of vintage cars. They continue to lease the flying field and one of the hangars to the Windrush Gliding Club.
Is it at risk?
Yes. The scheduled monument has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2009.
This comprises the southern bomb stores and several other defensive structures. All these assets are at risk from vacancy. They have suffered from a lack of maintenance over many years (predating the current ownership). They are further at risk of damage caused by invasive plants. The southern bomb stores are also flooded.
What's the current situation?
BH Ltd has repaired roughly 60% of the grade II buildings on the site. These have been put back into productive use. The intention is to do the same with most of the remainder. The development of the domestic site by City and Country is well advanced. It is scheduled to be complete by 2016.
BH Ltd is keen to work with Historic England to see the scheduled structures repaired. Historic England has now identified two shelters on which to carry out demonstration repair works. We are giving grant aid to assist in this work. We will liaise closely with BH Ltd and their professional team throughout the course of the works. This will give BH Ltd guidance on how to tackle the other buildings. There is a local history society which is keen to cut back the plant growth around the seagull trenches and mushroom pillboxes.