History of Lee Flying Association
The Royal Navy marched out of Daedalus for the last time on 29 March 1996. At that time it was the operational base for the Hampshire Police Air Support Unit (HPASU) and the rescue helicopters of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Both units continued to operate with the airfield being managed by HPASU on behalf of Hampshire Constabulary, who held a lease of the airfield from Defence Estates. Portsmouth Naval Gliding Centre (PNGC) were also operating under a License from Defence Estates, as well as a number of civilian aircraft. On 24 March 2006 the airfield land was disposed of by Defence Estates in two parcels. The operational airfield, consisting of the runways and the land enclosed by them, the control tower, and part of the taxiways together with a hangar used at the time by HPASU went to MCA, while the remainder of the land was transferred to South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), one of the then government’s Regional Development Agencies. The existing lease of the operational airfield from Defence Estates to Hampshire Constabulary was replaced by a new lease from MCA to Hampshire Constabulary. MCA erected fencing, separating its land from that of SEEDA.
In May 2007 HPASU announced a ban on all civilian flying during gliding operations (Wednesday afternoons and Weekends). LFA was formed on 22 July 2007 by two owners of an aircraft based at Lee, Malcolm Barton and David Skertchly to oppose the restrictions. On 18 October 2007 the then Chief Constable of Hampshire announced the closure of the airfield on safety grounds from 16 November 2007 to all aircraft other than those operated by HPASU, MCA and PNGC. LFA started a fundraising campaign, raising around £20,000 to fund a legal challenge to the closure, engaging London solicitors Payne Hicks Beach. The closure deadline was extended and, with the assistance of the UK Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Civil Aviation Authority, LFA drew up a new Airfield Manual for HPASU that addressed the alleged safety concerns. On 28 May 2008 Paul Kernaghan, Hampshire’s Chief Constable announced that the pending ban had been lifted and that General Aviation would continue at Lee.
On October 1 2010 a new South East Air Support Unit was formed to provide air support for the police forces of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Sussex and Surrey. It used helicopters based at RAF Odiham and Shoreham Airport and the HPASU base at Daedalus was closed. Britten Norman, who had by then transferred most of their operations to Daedalus from Bembridge on the Isle of Wight took over interim management of the airfield from HPASU on 1 April 2011.
LFA continued its work and in 2012 the coalition government closed the Regional Development Agencies. The work of SEEDA and its land holdings were transferred to the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). LFA continued to meet with local leaders and assist in the formulation of ongoing planning strategy for the airfield.
The boundary between Gosport and Fareham passes through the airfield. The operational part of the original airfield (Runways, taxiways etc) falls within Fareham, while what is known as the "Technical Area" to the south (accommodation blocks, workshops etc) falls within Gosport. In April 2015 the operational airfield was re-united when land within Fareham formerly owned by MCA and SEEDA was transferred to the ownership of Fareham Borough Council (FBC). It is now operated on behalf of FBC by Regional and City Airports.
There is one operational runway at Daedalus which has been resurfaced under FBC’s ownership. Development of the Daedalus site to provide local employment while at the same time maintaining the operational airfield is well under way. Some of the development include
- Fareham College’s new Centre of Excellence in Engineering, Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training (CEMAST)
- Fareham Innovation Centre, providing office and workshop space for SME’s.
- A new Driving Test Centre
- A new training centre for MCA
- New factory and workshop space on the site
- A new public road, Daedalus Drive, under construction across the southern part of the airfield to link Broom Way and Stubbington Lane.
- New serviced plots around the north apron for use by aviation businesses.
- Daedalus Park, a new development of 11,940 square metres of landside industrial space
LFA continues to provide input to FBC on airfield matters and organises events which promote the airfield.