Analysis and audio: Massive boost for Norwich as airport bosses unveil plans for 1,000 new jobs with aviation business park scheme
Norwich's economy was today given a massive boost after airport bosses unveiled plans to create 1,000 new jobs.
The airport has teamed up with Cambridge-based commercial property specialists Wrenbridge to form a joint venture company tasked with developing an 850,000 sq ft site for hanger and office space, or just over 18 acres - equal to nearly a third of the size of the Norfolk Showground.
The park will be developed on 100 acres of land to the north east of the main runway with the first phase led by Norwich-based firm Air Livery, which currently has its headquarters on Liberator Road.
The firm, which repaints aircraft from across Europe, will move into a new purpose-built state-of-the-art aircraft facility on a 160,000 sq ft site which will see the creation of 120 jobs.
Proposals are now being drawn up ahead of a public consultation and planning application, but hopes are high that the site could be developed by mid 2014.
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Plans centre around an initial investment of more between �3m and �4m to create a link road into the site from the A140 Cromer roundabout near Horsford along the former taxiway to the north east corner of the airport and fit the necessary infrastructure such as electricity, though it will also link to the proposed Norwich northern distributor road.
And it has been made possible after land was released to the airport by Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council, who backed the idea on the strength of the potential jobs and investment.
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The move comes on top of an annoucement last week by holiday maker Thomson First Choice to double the number of holiday flights from Norwich next summer, and follows separate plans in June to secure the future of KLM UK Engineering with a proposal for a new �1.2m engine testing facility.
Andrew Bell, chief executive of Norwich International Airport said after a turbulent couple of years which had seen passenger numbers drop, the plans were a sign that the future of the airport was again on the up.
'It's a big thing that's happening here,' Mr Bell said. 'We saw some good news with the passenger business last week. This announcement marks another positive step forward for the airport and further demonstrates the key role it plays as a driver of direct and indirect employment and economic growth in the region.
'This is a hugely exciting time for the airport, underpinning its status as a major regional airport fuelling economic growth,' he added. 'It's a crucial project and it's going to happen. That's why it's exciting.'
He said the scheme, which would focus primarily on businesses linked to the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft and the development of a centre of aviation excellence, had been two years in the making, while the councils signed up six months ago and a legal deal to create the venture company was signed last week.
The next stage will be to draw up detailed proposals ahead of a public consultation and planning application.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith welcomed the plans.
'These ambitious plans show that we have confidence in our area and that we can attract high-end businesses and skills to Norwich,' she said. 'The airport is an asset to the city and we would all like to see it flourish and I think it will be well supported as a transportation and services hub.'
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to help facilitate this project by agreeing to this land, owned by the county and city councils, to be used in this way. One of the city council's major priorities is to bring jobs into Norwich, to make it a prosperous city. If this project goes ahead this will provide a major boost to the jobs market, which is excellent news for the people of Norwich.'
Julian Duffen, managing director of Air Livery, said: 'Our base at Norwich International Airport has played a key role in growing our business in recent years. Having the ability to secure modern premises at the airport is vital to deliver the growth profile we envisage in the future, and today's announcement marks a significant strategic move forward for the business and a firm commitment to Norwich and our customers.'