Boost for Hunts RAF base as Marshalls plan stalls

THE possibility of aerospace engineers Marshalls of Cambridge moving their headquarters to RAF Wyton received a boost this week with the collapse of negotiations over the company s preferred location in Suffolk. After strategic planners identified the hug

THE possibility of aerospace engineers Marshalls of Cambridge moving their headquarters to RAF Wyton received a boost this week with the collapse of negotiations over the company's preferred location in Suffolk.

After strategic planners identified the huge Cambridge Airport site as ideal for housing in the rapidly-expanding sub-region, Marshall started to look for alternative sites.

Although Alconbury has what is regarded as one of the finest runways in Britain, it was rejected at an early stage.

Marshalls plumped for a detailed look at three sites - Mildenhall, in Suffolk, RAF Wyton and RAF Duxford. In the face of strong opposition from neighbours and a lukewarm response from South Cambridgeshire District Council, the family-owned aerospace company commissioned a detailed feasibility study into Wyton and Mildenhall. Consultants suggested three possible arrangements at the Suffolk base - Marshalls' preference, adjacent to one of its key customers, the US Air Force - and one at RAF Wyton.

Huntingdonshire District Council has always been keen to attract Marshalls to Wyton, which was the operational home of squadrons of post-war Canberra bombers and Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft until the 1990s.

The Ministry of Defence is establishing the southern part of the site as a key intelligence centre, leaving the runway and extensive northern part available in Marshalls decided to colonise it.

Most Read

On Monday (February 16), Defence Estates, the department's property arm, revealed that negotiations had stalled over Mildenhall for legal, financial and commercial reasons, and Marshall had "concluded that a wider range of options need to be considered".

David Olney, chief operating officer of Defence Estates, said: "Relocation adjacent to RAF Mildenhall with use of its runway facilities was always a complex option with unique issues, and all parties involved, including the USAF, have worked closely to try to achieve its delivery."

Marshalls' development director, John Watkins, told The Hunts Post that the company was "disappointed that the MOD has identified issues that block progress" at Mildenhall, but the process of finding a new home was not completely back to square one.

It was, however, far too soon to identify the Wyton site as part of the company's future plans.

"As we re-define our criteria, we shall have to assess what the options would be," he added.

One criterion in the previous exercise was where employees lived. Many were recruited from RAF bases in Huntingdonshire when they retired from the service, and still live in the district or this side of Cambridge. But nor would that rule out sites to the north of Cambridge.

Alex Plant, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Horizons, the company set up to deliver the infrastructure to support 50,000-plus additional homes in the county, including several thousand earmarked for the airport site, said progress on finding an alternative home for Marshalls needed to happen as soon as possible.

"There are other relocation sites under consideration and we will now work closely with our local authority partners, Government, and Marshalls as a matter of urgency to progress this complex but exciting project," he added.

Councillor Matt Bradney, Cambridgeshire County Council cabinet member for growth said yesterday: "The council welcomes this decision to widen the range of options to be considered for the relocation of the Marshall aviation business. Finding a suitable relocation site for Marshall is vital in providing high quality and sustainable homes for people in this area and protecting the jobs provided by the company.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter