NO ONE should be surprised that pilots at Old Sarum are being ejected with three months’ notice.

It is precisely the kind of peevish reaction I’d have expected from the airfield’s owners once their hopes of plastering its perimeter with 460-odd lucrative new-builds were dashed.

Yet how can they square it with their professed love of the First World War aerodrome and earnest desire to ensure that flying continues there? Once the planes have gone, they won’t come back.

I was present, late last year, when the Government-appointed inspector presiding over the owners’ appeal for planning permission asked what would happen if they didn’t get their way.

They told her they would ‘step up flying at all hours’ to make the place pay, even though it would cause misery for neighbours.

Getting rid of pilots seems a strange way of going about that.

They also said they would make the rapidly deteriorating First World War hangar, a listed building of national importance, ‘wind and watertight’. That remains to be seen ….

Options are apparently being mulled over. They were threatening at one stage to bale out and sell to a high-volume developer.

But I can’t imagine a big builder wanting it after such a comprehensive demolition of the owners’ plans by the inspector, who ruled that they would cause “inordinate” harm to the historic environment of the airfield conservation area and Old Sarum ancient monument.

How about going for a smaller, more sensitive scheme? And settling for a little less loot? Or is that too reasonable?

Belatedly, the government has recognised the damage being done to the nation’s network of smaller airfields by the building bonanza.

It has issued new guidance to planners, with immediate effect.

“Up until now it has been possible for new residents to move in nearby and then start to complain about an airfield which may have been operational for 100 years, eventually getting it restricted or even closed,” explains the General Aviation Awareness Council.

Exactly what the Save Old Sarum campaigners feared. Complaints like the ones that led the old district council to draw up the insufficiently specific policy for our airfield, rubber-stamped by Wiltshire, that lies at the root of all this trouble.

The new guidance emphasises that “general aviation airfields are part of the UK’s ongoing prosperity,” says the GAAC.

It makes would-be developers responsible for justifying their intentions and “mitigating the impact of disturbance on future residents”.

And it applies to “development in the immediate vicinity of an airport, or the final approach and departure routes of an operational runway, and locations that experience regular low altitude overflight by general aviation aircraft, where this could subject residents or occupiers to significant noise, air quality issues and/or vibration impacts”.

That’s assuming your airfield still has planes, of course.