Fifty jobs on the line at KLM in Norwich

A new aircraft engine test site at Norwich International Airport remains on the cards despite up to 50 job losses at the company behind the plans.

KLM UK Engineering, which employs more than 400 people at the airport, has announced a drive to save �1.7m annually which bosses say could see its workforce reduced by 50.

The firm said the move followed a 'decrease in demand' for aircraft maintenance, coupled with 'downward pressure' on prices in the European aviation market.

A 30-day consultation with staff is under way and the company said it would seek to minimise compulsory redundancies through retirement and voluntary redundancy.

Last year the firm secured planning permission to carry out engine tests at a specially designed site on the north-east edge of the airport, on which, it said, the future of its Norwich workforce depended.

While the proposals will now face judicial review – after opposition from nearby residents and businesses over noise – the firm said these plans are unaffected by the cost reduction programme.

The firm, a subsidiary of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, maintains aircraft including Boeing 737s, Fokker 100s and Avro RJs for a number of airlines globally.

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An initial statement on the KLM UK Engineering website outlined plans to save �1.7m a year after a dip in demand.

In an update yesterday the firm added: 'The company can now confirm that the programme included the possibility of a reduction of 50 jobs via retirement, voluntary redundancy and in the last resort compulsory redundancy.

'Company management and employee representatives have been meeting on a regular basis with the intention of minimising job losses by considering alternative propositions.

'Talks will continue during the 30-day consultation period and further details will be released once this has been concluded.'

No date has been set for the judicial review into the planned test site, which has been brought by Gill and Peter Cook, who run holiday cottages on Quaker Farm in Quaker Lane, Spixworth, 500 yards from the proposed test site.

The couple, who said four points in the planning process were unlawful, declined to comment.

While it has permission to continue tests at a second location on the airport, the company had previously conducted the tests at an unauthorised site for five years before being ordered to stop by Norwich City Council early last year.

KLM UK Engineering's latest published accounts, for the year to March 31 2010, showed a �4.1m dip in turnover to �28.9m, and profit before tax of �1.1m.

The directors' report in the accounts said: 'The recession has had a limited impact on results though pressure on prices is anticipated to affect results in the following years.'

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