Concorde wins £4.4m funding

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Written by:   | Posted 28-May-2013 10:21

Concorde wins £4.4m funding

The dream of creating a permanent home for Concorde in Bristol has been virtually guaranteed after the National Lottery agreed to back the project with a £4.4 million grant.

The team behind the plan to build a Bristol Aerospace Centre was celebrating last night after it emerged the Lottery has agreed to support the project at the second time of asking.

A detailed planning application to refurbish two World War One hangars on the edge of Filton Airfield is being drawn up and building work could start as early as next year with a plan to open by the summer of 2016.

The Bristol Aero Collection Trust now has a guaranteed fund of £8 mil- lion and is confident of raising the rest of the cash needed to pay for the £13 million centre.

The two listed hangars will be refurbished to create a museum, learning suites, archives and workshops along with a permanent home for Concorde and a technology learning centre. It is believed the centre will attract around 100,000 visitors a year.

Concorde 216, which was designed and built in Bristol, is currently standing at the side of the closed Filton Airfield and is closed to the public.

Around £1 million has already been spent on protecting the supersonic plane from the elements but there are fears that the unique piece of aviation history could be lost forever if a  suitable home is not found.

The new centre will also house the Bristol Aero Collection – which celebrates and records 100 years of aviation manufacture in the city. Manufacturing started in 1910 when Bristol businessman Sir George White set up the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company.

Concorde 216 has been closed to the public for almost three years and the iconic plane is being looked after by Airbus but is still owned by British Airways.

The grant from the Lottery comes after Rolls-Royce, Airbus and manufacturing firm GKN all agreed to make major donations totalling more than £4 million to the project.

Lloyd Burnell, a key figure from the Bristol Aero Collection Trust, believed that the museum scheme is now virtually guaranteed.

He said: “We have now raised more than two-thirds of the money we need for the centre and we are very confident of finding the rest.

“This is a great foothold and we can now get started on the job of making the aerospace centre happen at last.”

Bristol is seen by many as the home of the aviation industry and there has been criticism of the fact that there is no museum celebrating the city’s engineering heritage.

As reported in the Bristol Post, Rolls-Royce became the latest supporter of the scheme with a donation of £1 million. The firm, which employs 4,000 people at its factory in Patchway, will also provide a number of historic aero engines to go on public display through the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, as well as technical help in the development of the exhibition.

Among the engines already earmarked for the centre is the Olympus 593, which powered Concorde and will go on display alongside Concorde 216, the last of the supersonic airliners to fly.

Both Airbus and BAE Systems have already said they will back the scheme with donations worth just under £4 million in total.

The group has been campaigning for a site and funding for several years and has already had one bid for lottery cash turned down.

BAE Systems, which owns Filton Airfield, has offered land and two former hangars for the museum. The original plan was to build a centre next to Cribbs Causeway but the scheme was dropped because it was too expensive.

The defence and aerospace company has been working with the trust to ensure the long-term conservation and display of Concorde 216, which has been without a permanent home since it landed at Filton nine years ago at the end of the last ever Concorde flight, on November 26, 2003.

It is hoped volunteers will get involved with the project during the development stage and will help with the restoration of artifacts, historical research, training to become tour guides and help with customer services.

The collection, much of which will be made accessible to the public for the first time, includes thousands  of important objects and nationally significant archives.

Lloyd Burnell added: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support.

“The Bristol Aerospace Centre at Filton will provide enormous opportunities for people to learn about our industrial aviation heritage and  social history, as well as encouraging people to get involved through volunteering and the development of new skills.

“It is great to know that we are a major step closer towards meeting our ambitions.”

Chairman of the trust Iain Gray added: “South Gloucestershire and Bristol have a proud history in aerospace and continue to play a leading role with companies and projects around the globe.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund success provides the opportunity to share this remarkable history – from the early Bristol bi-planes to the most recognisable aircraft in the world, Concorde – and into the future of the industry, as we seek to inspire a  new generation of engineers in the region.”

Nerys Watts, head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Bristol has a unique aviation history and this is the perfect opportunity to reconnect the community and wider public with the important story of the aircraft that were developed here and the people that created them.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be able to offer its initial support for this project and will be working closely with Bristol Aero Collection Trust as they develop their plans further.”

The Bristol Aero Collection is a registered charity and was formed in 1988 by a group of like-minded individuals, all passionate about the aviation heritage of Bristol.

Until its closure two years ago, volunteers ran a museum on Kemble Airfield and until Concorde was withdrawn from public access to complete essential restoration works, a volunteer team ran guided tours around the plane.

The Bristol Aero Collection has been working on plans to build an aviation heritage museum and learning centre at Filton Airfield for more than a decade, and in May 2012 it merged with The Concorde Trust  to help make the dream become a reality.

Following the closure of Kemble museum, the Bristol Aero Collection was moved and is currently being held in storage in Filton.

Pictured: How the Bristol Concorde visitor centre could look at Filton.

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