BAE commits £2.4m and site for Concorde museum in Bristol
A NEW home for Bristol's Concorde is finally nearer to reality after BAE Systems donated a site for a new museum – and £2.4 million towards building it.
The funding – £2 million cash plus £400,000 worth of professional support – is aimed at getting the Bristol Aero Collection Trust's plans for a £13 million Bristol Aerospace Centre on the northern fringe of Filton Airfield up and running.
BAE Systems, which owns the airfield and is closing it to air traffic at the end of this month ahead of a planned redevelopment, announced the donation of the site and funding today.
The defence and aerospace company is 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.
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John Hallett, MD of Destination Bristol said: “The plane is an icon of the aerospace industry and that industry in many respects started here in Bristol. It has been sad to see Concorde languishing on the airfield and we need to hope it becomes a bit more of the life of the city in the future.”
Speaking to This is Bristol he says that while comparisons with the ss Great Britain may be premature the new Concorde development should use the ship's success as a benchmark.
The museum would also house the Bristol Aero Collection, which contains a large number of artifacts and archives from the city's plane building history.
But the supersonic airliner is still set to spend another two years in the open before being moved under cover, ready for inclusion in the new centre.
The trust will first have to re-apply for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which turned down a £3 million grant bid 18 months ago. It will also be seeking corporate sponsorship for the scheme.
Engineering historian Professor David Blockley, from Bristol University said the development should be part of a wider vision to celebrate Bristol's world class engineering heritage: “We could connect the various centres together - the ss Great Britain, the Suspension Bridge, M shed and so on and make it a feature of Bristol and a visitor attraction. That would help local industry and tourism and would help people to understand engineering is something that people rely on every day and so if we could bring all this together in a group of attractions I think it would be tremendous for the city.”
BAE Systems heritage manager Howard Mason said the company hoped news of the funding would be a "catalyst" for further investment.
Mr Mason, who is also a member of the Bristol Aero Heritage Trust, said: "This is a major step forward after years of working towards finding a home for Concorde. We are hoping today's announcement will act as encouragement for other organisations to come forward and help protect the heritage of aviation in Bristol.
"We hope our commitment will encourage other companies and the people of Bristol to put their full weight behind this project."
Mr Mason said getting this far had taken so long due to the number of organisations involved.
He said: "There have been a lot of pieces to put together. We have had to find the right funding and resources.
"We have been working hard with the BACT to put together a coherent and realistic plan."
Mr Mason said he had been talking to British Airways and Airbus to make sure the plane is under cover within two years, by which time he hopes funding will be in place to build the Aerospace Centre.
Part of the money will be needed to refurbish two First World War Grade II listed hangers which form part of the museum site next to the newly built Hayes Way, which runs from the A38 to Cribbs Causeway.
Mr Mason said the hangers would be "tastefully restored" to house all the artifacts in a "first class" aviation museum. A new building will house Concorde separately.
He added: "The new space will offer a lasting legacy of Bristol's aviation history which will be an inspiration to all."
The project has the backing of South Gloucestershire Council, which has already granted outline planning permission for a museum and is working alongside the trust.
Trust project director of the BACT Lloyd Burnell said: "The Bristol Aerospace Centre will bring together Bristol's important aviation heritage, which is currently in various collections, many inaccessible to the public.
"The new centre will provide a tribute to Bristol's world-class aerospace industry, giving people the opportunity to learn about Bristol's exceptional aviation heritage, and promote learning amongst the next generation of designers, innovators and engineers.
"We welcome BAE Systems' generous contribution and are preparing our Heritage Lottery Fund application, to be submitted early in the New Year."