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SAINT GEORGES CHAPEL BIGGIN HILL By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

08 Jan 15. First of all, may I thank all of you who expressed deep concern and angst following the specific ‘Commentary’ that I wrote on Sunday in respect of the future of St Georges Chapel, Biggin Hill.

Those of you that read my own piece will know that I chose to write this following an article that had been published in the Sunday Mail and that had been brought to my attention by a number of retired Royal Air Force officers. Just as they had been, I was extremely shocked to read that funding for the chapel was apparently to be removed next year. The innuendo was that the chapel may well be closed or worse, even destroyed. Nothing of course could have been further from the truth. Whilst it is certainly true that the MOD has for some considerable time been seeking an alternative way to fund the future of the chapel had the ‘Mail on Sunday’ journalist checked with the MOD before he published his article and had he been in possession of all the facts he would have known that a significant amount of work had already been done by the MOD to secure the future of this wonderful place.

Yesterday, in PMQ’s in the House of Commons, Prime Minister, David Cameron said in answer to a written parliamentary question that “the government will protect the chapel at Biggin Hill airfield in south east London for future generations, citing the key role that the airfield played in the Battle of Britain”.

Further, the MOD has taken the opportunity to re-articulate the position with regard to St. Georges Chapel and the statement made by Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon which is as follows: “We will preserve St. George’s Chapel’s rich heritage for future generation. That is why we have been in discussions with Bromley Council for 18 months regarding the chapel’s future, and we are pleased the council wants to create a heritage centre on the site. Mr Fallon added “subject to agreeing suitable terms to secure the future of the chapel, the garden of remembrance and the car park, we will lease the site on a long term basis to the council for a token rent. We want to thank all parties that have come forward offering support and will be working with Bromley Council to identify how these generous offers can be incorporated into the final heritage proposal”

Naturally, like all of you, I am extremely pleased that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence have confirmed that the future of St George’s Chapel is secure. But I am bound to question why, given that the MoD has been talking with Bromley Council and others for eighteen months, this fact was not included in the original ‘Sunday Mail’ article and that the reporter in question did not check with the MoD to ensure the facts were correct. The MoD does have an excellent record in terms of ensuring that memorials and sites of special interest that come under its jurisdiction are protected and looked after. Indeed, one only has to look at the work done to ensure the future of the Battle of Britain Bunker as very good proof of this. I am as many of you know not really one for conspiracy theories but in this particular case I might be persuaded to change my mind. I will go no further along that particular road but I will say that while inflammatory reporting in regard to the future of St. George’s Chapel may have brought the matter to the attention of large numbers of people but that it ignored certain facts will have done little to help the cause and reputation of those that wonder why the MOD adopts such a high level of caution in its relationship with journalists.

hwheeldon@wheeldonstrategic.com

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