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GL RFCA manages all the properties and facilities used by reserves and cadets in Greater London, known collectively as the Volunteer Estate. The estates team provides a complete professional maintain, sustain and change management service to the occupying units administering 193 sites within the M25 London area.

GL RFCA estates team has been working closely with BPR Architects to develop exciting new facilities for the RAF at the Kenley Aerodrome Site and the Coulsdon Army Reserve Centre Site, to bring a gliding facility back into action. This new facility will be supported by new RAF Air Cadet accommodation facilities located at the ARC site in Coulsdon. We spoke to Nicholas Summers, Director of Estates and Commercial lettings to find out how the project was coming along.

The Kenley Aerodrome Site – soaring to new sites

The new cadet gliding centre will expand the existing facilities available on the site and will be situated within the conservation area at Kenly. As the most intact fighter airfield from World War II, Kenley Aerodrome is a location rich in heritage and history. As one of the best-preserved RAF stations, Kelsey includes features such as taxiways and bunker layouts, infrastructure, landscape and boundary treatments which are all significant in maintaining the heritage of the site. It was therefore critical these were retained as part of the proposal with the suggested pallet of materials selected to complement the existing historical features. Improving the quality of the security and safety is also very important.

The team worked closely with the local authority to establish these requirements as well as develop a design proposal which met both the end user and wider community’s aspirations.

As a flagship facility, it was important that the design for 615 Sqn Volunteer Gliding School’s new centre was of modern design but complimented the existing, more historical buildings elsewhere on the site. The proposed single storey building has a striking curved roof which reflects the shape of the wing of a glider. Effort and costs were focused on the quality of finishes especially within the entrance into the building – where the exposed glulam frame mimics the structure of a historical glider’s wing that will welcome new cadets into the facility. The walls to the main entrance are angled to focus views onto the airfield when entering the building. Routes around the place for pedestrians and vehicles are separated and the main entrances clearly defined by external angular glazed canopies. Where possible, opportunities have been sought to integrate wildlife into the site in a way which can be easily maintained.

We just can’t wait to see the finished structure, with a move-in date planned for spring of 2020.

Coulsdon Army Reserve Centre – cadets get a new crib

At Coulsdon, a similar approach has been taken towards developing the design for a new overnight accommodation block which would enable the new gliding centre to be fully operational. Similar details have been developed to reference the design at the Kenley Aerodrome site, such as the angular glazed canopy over the main entrance and in-depth consideration given towards the materiality of the proposed design and cadet movement around the site.

We will be introducing a pedestrian priority area and improving the access into the existing ARC Building. Again, the design has referenced the historic details and features on the site but with a modern interpretation. The proposed designs are able to compliment the wider context and create an environment suitable for aspiring RAF cadets. Bird boxes have been introduced to an area of existing planting on the site. So, what’s on the menu? There will also be a full refurbishment of the existing ARC catering facilities. It is anticipated that this accommodation will be available for use from summer 2021 – just in time for the summer holidays!