ANTIQUES fairs will be able to continue at Swinderby for some time, despite the site’s prospective development as a gravel pit.
The reassurance came from Cemex UK, the owners of RAF Swinderby, near Lincoln, who must wait until May 9 for clarification of legal issues regarding drainage in connection with their application to extract 5.6m tonnes of gravel at the disused airfield.
Their plans affect more than half of the entire 145-hectare site.
The application was considered by Lincolnshire County Council on April 11, after which Ian Southcott, Cemex UK's Community Affairs Manager, told ATG that if the plans were approved, any permission would not be issued until towards the end of the year.
"If permission is granted it would be some time before extraction commences," he added. "As the site would be worked in phases, it seems likely that we will be able to accommodate the antiques fair for some time."
The fairs at RAF Swinderby were started in 1995 by the late Peter Burgoin of Arthur Swallow Fairs and at their peak attracted upwards of 3000 exhibitors. It was partly in anticipation of Cemex's development plans that Swallow moved their large antiques and collectors' fairs in 2009 from RAF Swinderby to the Lincolnshire Showground, holding their first fair at the smaller site in October of that year.
However, only days after the site was vacated in 2009, rival organiser International Antique and Collectors Fairs (IACF), who stage the Newark fair, were advised by Cemex that, because of the economic downturn, gravel extraction was likely to be four years away. IACF moved to revive the event entering an agreement to run a fair at the airfield for at least two years without fear that the site would be redeveloped.
The organisers started a two-day fair at Swinderby in October 2009, with the announced fair dates clashing with those at Lincoln.
However, the move proved unpopular with stallholders and buyers and the fairs were scrapped after two events and a one-day midweek trade fair was launched at Swinderby in May 2010. Held in the months when there was no other showground fair in the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire area, this has proved to be a winner for IACF attracting 500-plus dealers.
New one-dayers are now also held by IACF at Newbury Racecourse and the Hertfordshire Showground with the launch planned for May 23 of another venue at the North Weald Airfield, near Harlow.
IACF operations manager Rachel Everett said: "We were aware of the plans when we first approached Cemex and they have assured us that the fairs will be able to go ahead without any problems. It is a huge airfield with plenty of scope for change if it actually comes to that."
By Joan Porter