Buildings that were part of this rural World War II airbase have been transformed into sensational single storey homes
What had been farmland was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and RAF Acaster Malbis and its barracks had various uses throughout the war and beyond, including hosting airmen from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
It was also a training base for RAF Bomber Command, was later utilised by RAF Maintenance Command and played a part in the Korean war when it became a medical facility amid a series of rescue missions to fly casualties to Britain.
The radical transformation from farmer’s fields took just a matter of months and the RAF base was built with great skill and remarkable attention to detail with an impressive array of amenities, some of which are still there today.
Completely self-contained, it had sleeping quarters, a ration store, a cobblers, cinema, a control tower, chapel, post office and Naafi, plus a squash court and gym.
Some of these still exist, albeit in some state of decay, thanks to benign neglect by subsequent owners, including chicken farmers and pig farmers.
The former RAF buildings were deemed particularly good for housing pigs and that alternative use helped protect them until the land was abandoned and nature, vandals, teenagers, fly tippers and the occasional rave took over.
Now, the former airbase is entering its third and perhaps its final incarnation, which is taking it from problem site to sensitively, single storey designed housing in a glorious rural spot.
The transition has not been easy. Previous owners who initially bought the land with a view to constructing 50 plus new-build houses on it lost their battle with the local planning authority, though they did manage to gain Q class permissions to convert five of the old buildings into single storey homes.
Q Class is a planning category aimed at easing the pressure on housing in rural areas. It allows the change of use of buildings from agricultural to residential use and since the former RAF base buildings had been used to house chickens and pigs, it had to be considered as acceptable in planning terms.
Carl Massey, a former site engineer and site manager, and his cousin Tony Johnson, a former joiner, who combined their skills to become successful small scale housebuilders, bought the 16 acre plot two years ago after being bowled over by the location, the historic buildings and the site’s history.
The setting was a huge draw. It is rural and tranquil with the pretty village of Appleton Roebuck and its popular pub just up the road one way and a quarter of a mile the other way is the fashionable Bishopthorpe area of York.
The first building the cousins converted has been sold to a buyer who is delighted with the energy efficient property and the beautiful and truly unique setting.
There are now four more homes for sale. Among them is an immaculate three bedroom, two bathroom home with a large garage priced at £525,000 and a fabulous, 3000 sq ft, five bedroom, four bathroom home with a large integrated garage in a one acre plot that is for sale at £1m.
All the properties come with large gardens and full fibre connectivity and are on the market with Carter Jonas York.
“The buildings we have converted were really well built and robust. We have kept the existing concrete A-frames and put on a new roof and cavity wall insulation and a new skin inside, along with render on the outside,” Carl.
The homes are freehold and a management company set up by Carl and Tony oversees the site and its communal areas, which have been tamed after two years of hard graft .
A wildflower meadow has been sown, hedges and trees are being planted, the hares, deer and birds are still around but the fly tipping has gone, the pump house made safe and the jungle of weeds and brambles gone.
“That’s been the hardest but really rewarding part of the project,” says Carl.
The RAF base’s history is part of its charm and so redundant water towers have been turned into havens for wildlife and other key buildings retained, though the cousins could have demolished them as they are not listed.
“It’s the only site of its kind left in the country as far as we know and we wanted to keep reminders of its history,” says Tony.
Going forward, the aim is to gain planning permission to convert other redundant buildings on the site using Class Q and also Class R planning permissions. The latter can allow agricultural buildings to be holiday lets.
“Ultimately we think there is scope to convert 23 buildings but we will see what the planners allow,” says Carl.
“It would be a shame not to as otherwise the buildings will be lost as there is no other use for them.”
Whatever happens, there are no regrets. “It has been really interesting looking into the history of the land and we are proud of what we have done and, let’s be honest, there are worse places to go to work,” says Carl.
*For details of the homes for sale contact Carter Jonas, York, tel: 01904 558200.