THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition calling on a council to save a gliding club by keeping it at Daedalus airfield.
More than 5,500 signatories have been recorded demanding Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club not be ‘priced out’ of the re-branded Solent Airport in Lee-on-the-Solent.
The club, which has been running for 70 years, will be closing on May 31, bosses have confirmed.
They say Fareham Borough Council wants to move the club into a £35,000-a-year hangar and quadruple their landing fees.
But borough council leader Sean Woodward said the club has been using the airfield at ‘very little cost’ while having assets worth £428,000, and it has sublet its current hangar for about £8,800-a-year.
He said accounts show the club is charged £33 each month for gliding, but makes £12.32 per flight.
Club manager Tony World said: ‘For one of the new hangars the council wants £35,000 a year – and will also quadruple our landing fees.
‘We were told that it was not up for negotiation, so we have no choice but to close.
‘We simply can’t afford to stay here anymore. But the worst part of it all is that they are not knocking down the hangar we are currently in, so why we aren’t allowed to stay there is beyond me.
‘Over the past couple of years we have seen the airfield deteriorate and the blame for that is solely on the council.
‘This club has been a core part of aviation for young people – because we have been able to keep it affordable for them.
‘Of the thousands of young people who have flown with us, many have gone on to join the armed forces and aviation firms, so this is a big loss.’
The council has spent millions of pounds on resurfacing the runway and building 11 new airside hangars.
A council statement said: ‘Now that the new hangars are ready, we have issued a notice to some of our tenants to bring the current temporary arrangements to an end and agree a long-term relationship with them on this site.
‘With the exception of PNGC, we have made good progress towards agreeing terms with all other tenants affected.
‘As far as we are aware, no others will be leaving.’
Airport operator Regional and City Airports said that the opening of a new taxiway also means the use of glider winch launches – used by the club – ‘is not compatible’ with a new route at the airfield.
Mr World said: ‘This decision comes from the council and the council alone.’
The club’s equipment and members may set up elsewhere but PNGC is set to close.