James Alexander is writing a new chapter in the history of his family farm by creating a centre for aviation on 100 acres of land at Balado, Kinross – previously home to sheep, Spitfires and Snow Patrol. Formerly site of T in the Park for 18 years, its festival story came to an end in 2014, when a change in planning conditions made its continuation untenable. Re-inventing the future called for radical new approaches to investment and infrastructure to breathe new life into this WW2 airfield and re-create a rural business as a field of dreams for aviation enthusiasts across Scotland.
As home to T in the Park from 1997 – 2014, Balado became a household name. Once the gates closed, James was left with a complex list of planning regulations, which meant that a site built to host over 90,000 people could only host 100 in some areas. He learned the hard way that diversification is a dynamic process. He was handed control of the site from his father. Having learned to fly aged 17 (through a Royal Navy scholarship) could he build on the physical legacy of bunkers, runways and roads, to create a landmark flying school and aviation centre, with 1500m2 aircraft hangarage, new control tower, 500m3 concrete flooring and runway improvements, 2000m2 commercial building, members’ club, café, community space and viewing area?
The existing facilities had previously attracted some aviation enthusiasts to participate in gliding, hot air ballooning, paragliding / microlights, but this was on another level. Dreaming big was one thing but producing budget forecasts and selling his vision to lenders was particularly challenging, so he gained advice on other funding and grant opportunities. This led to a partnership with Leader Funding (Perth and Kinross) and four years ago, his Blue Skies redevelopment proposal launched him on the biggest learning experience of his life, navigating funding and planning protocols, laying concrete and drains, facing the rising cost of steel, new health and safety legislation, marketing AND Covid. AND NOW, the emerging airfield landscape offers ‘generational renewal’ and a new direction of travel for land management #Route2050.