Owner of former RAF airfield near Tadcaster investigated after villagers allege damage to protected site

Villagers in North Yorkshire have reacted with anger at “appalling” damage allegedly inflicted on a protected Battle of Britain airfield by its owner.

Historic England, the body tasked with heritage protection, confirmed it is investigating allegations that JCB damage to RAF Church Fenton near Tadcaster has potentially destroyed relics of the airfield, which was a key defence site in the Second World War.

The airfield, now known as Leeds East Airport, is owned by Makin Enterprises, whose managing director Chris Makin launched a private aviation company based at the airfield after his plans to create a commercial airport were rejected.

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The site is a designated Scheduled Monument and contains a series of dispersed fighter pens, a pillbox, two gun posts and a battle headquarters, together with remains of support buildings and sections of the runway.

The site is a designated Scheduled Monument and contains a series of dispersed fighter pens, a pillbox, two gun posts and a battle headquarters, together with remains of support buildings and sections of the runway. Known as Leeds East Airport, it is now run as a private airfield and has regular shows of vintage planes including Spitfires and Hurricanes.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport must give consent for any work to be done on a Scheduled Monument, as well as local planning permission sought.

Historic England was made aware by a member of the public of the alleged damage.

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“As one of the most complete Battle of Britain defence airfields remaining in the UK, and a Scheduled Monument, we are keen to protect this important site.”

Drone footage seen by The Yorkshire Post appears to show fighter pens on the site being dug up but the extent of the damage is still to be determined by the investigation.

North Yorkshire Police have been informed of the allegations. It is believed work began on November 12, the day after Armistice Day.

One Church Fenton villager, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s just appalling. We had incredibly brave men flying out of the airfield.

“There’s a lot of precious memories attached to the airfield for people who are still alive today.

“They’ve ridden roughshod over things that should have been kept as treasures.”

North Yorkshire County Councillor Richard Musgrave has backed the investigation. He said: “If appropriate, Historic England will bring a prosecution for the damage that’s been done depending on how severe it is.

“While most people were paying their respect to the fallen, there was damage being done to this monument and that’s pretty heartbreaking.”

During the war, RAF Church Fenton was home to No. 85 squadron, whose Commanding Officer was Group Captain Peter Townsend, famous for his relationship with Princess Margaret. A Battle of Britain monument was unveiled at the site last year.

Chris Makin said: “A representative from Historic England has visited the site. We are committed to working with them regarding this issue and await further discussions.”