By Tom Boon
A local community project hopes to reopen Welwyn Garden City’s historic airfield, the Panshanger Aerodrome, after its closure in 2014.
Panshanger was once the home of the North London Flying School, currently one of the UK’s leading flying instructors, and was a staple of the local community. Project Phoenix, the team behind the project, aims to make the new airfield a place where anybody could come grab a coffee, sit and watch aircraft, or just spend the afternoon as visitors previously did.
Initially, Mariposa Investments, a Welwyn Garden City-based landowner planned to turn the leftover space into a housing site, but the proposal was scaled back and left the field available. If Project Phoenix manages to take the space, there’s a possibility it will generate 25 new jobs and 17 apprenticeships.
“Even though aviation was the main theme, Panshanger Aerodrome was a place of unity that brought people together from all walks of life making it a real community hub and it is still missed by many” — Project Phoenix
The project already has the backing of the University of Hertfordshire’s Engineering & Technology Department, and it’s clear to see why. Having this facility within 15 minutes of the university would be a boom for engineering and aviation students, given the number who are studying a degree with aerospace. It could also be vital for business travel, provide a place for educational school trips, and would be a centre families could bring their children.
Many others have also shown their support for the project, including the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as well as the local MP for Welwyn Hatfield, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps; the latter bringing attention to Panshanger’s development of the de Havilland Mosquito which helped protect Britain during WWII.
Project Phoenix is currently looking for volunteers and support from the local community, and students studying at the University of Hertfordshire. To get involved, visit www.project-phoenix.org.uk, or contact the project’s head, Sue, on 07595 278906.