Permission given to convert listed Battle of Britain base to flats

Decay and destruction: the Grade II-listed Officers’Mess at Kenley has seen better, prouder days

A near 20-year saga of neglect and decay to the Grade II-listed Officers’ Mess at the former RAF Kenley could be close to a conclusion after Tandridge Council last week granted planning permission for the buildings to be restored and converted to provide 32 flats.

Eighty years ago, RAF Kenley was on the front line in the Battle of Britain, its Spitfires and Hurricanes providing fighter cover for London, alongside RAF Croydon and Biggin Hill.

Countless heroes will have used the Officers’ Mess during World War II, many of them having their last meal before being scrambled for the latest Luftwaffe bombing raid, perhaps never to return.

Plans approved: Tandridge Council has finally agreed to allow the development take place

Kenley had been the site of a military aircraft base since 1917, although it was not until the dark days of 1940, and the threat of invasion by Nazi Germany, that its grass runways were made permanent with concrete.

The Mess building was constructed in 1932, to a design by the Air Ministry’s Directorate of Works and Buildings. After almost 50 years of service, the Officers’ Mess fell silent in 1978, as the RAF left Kenley. With its two runways still mostly intact and a collection of other buildings and shelters also still standing, Kenley is the last RAF fighter base still recognisable from its Battle of Britain days.

Hence the heritage interest in the future of the Officers’ Mess.

The buildings were bought in 2005 by developers, Comer Homes, who proceeded to do very little with the site apart from allow it to decay, as they encountered financial issues and came up against planning constraints in the Green Belt.

A total of four planning applications had been submitted previously – none of which have been accepted by the council.

Two fires, in 2016 and 2019, both suspected cases of arson, caused catastrophic damage to the buildings.

And last week, Tandridge Council took a different view of a fresh application, while admitting that a new block of flats would be “an inappropriate development in the Green Belt”.

Gutted: the 2016 fire had a catastrophic effect on the building

In addition to the restoration and conversion, a new “traditional design” block of 10 flats will be built on the site of Flintfield House, which was demolished in the 1970s, and the original lodge will be restored.

The decision notice says that “special circumstances” exist which outweigh other Green Belt considerations.

“The proposed alterations, extensions and new build elements would provide a viable use which would preserve the listed building for future generations without significant harm to its significance.

“In addition, public access would be secured as part of the Legal Agreement and therefore the proposal would result in a public benefit. Significant weight is therefore attached to preservation of the listed building and its grounds.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Business, Environment, History, Housing, Kenley, Planning, Property, Tandridge District Council and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Permission given to convert listed Battle of Britain base to flats

  1. Paul Huppert says:

    Great piece. I think alot of the Jack Hawkins’ movie, Angels One Five, was filmed there a decade or so after the Battle of Britain. Didn’t know some of the buildings were still there.

  2. Lewis White says:

    ” The old Officer’s mess to be restored? Wizard news. Old Ginge, Bless him!, would have been delighted!

    I’m putting my chips on there being a nice block of warden-assisted retirement flats next door.

    I am wondering if the developer johnnies are planning on re-building the bar?

    That would be truly welcome to old stagers like myself . A quick pop-round in the afternoon for a small whisky and a peruse of the Telegraph would be music to the ear, if you see what I am driving at.

    I hear that an enterprising chappie out in Kent is able to fix wings and a lightweight single prop engine to mobility scooters. At a price ! I must see what Father Christmas brings.

    If he is generous, you will see me after Xmas out on the South runway. Should be able to get a decent speed up for a take-off over the heads of the dog walkers on the perimeter taxiway!

    Looks quite a drop down to the bottom of the valley, where the old gasometer was. Hundreds of feet. Full of luxury flats now, and 10-bathroom exec homes! All right for some !

    Sorry old chap ! Lovely to chin-wag, but must go now– Christmas cards to write. Presents to get for the Great grandchildren from the Amazon man.

    Wondering what to get for my ladyfriend down on the 2nd floor ! Mum’s the word!

    TTFN !! “

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