Wyton looks second best in aircraft plan
THE likelihood of aviation giant Marshall Aerospace moving to RAF Wyton in the next few years has moved further away following the publication of a new report. The company, under pressure to leave its Cambridge Airport premises to make way for up to 12,00
THE likelihood of aviation giant Marshall Aerospace moving to RAF Wyton in the next few years has moved further away following the publication of a new report.
The company, under pressure to leave its Cambridge Airport premises to make way for up to 12,000 new homes, has already ruled out nine alternative sites. It is left with Wyton and its preferred option, RAF Mildenhall.
Marshall insists that staying in Cambridge remains on the cards, but that seems unrealistic. With 47,500 new homes slated for the Cambridge sub-region by 2021, planners will invoke compulsory purchase powers if that is what it takes to free up the land to create a new community in the city suburb of Teversham.
Consultants Arup have been looking at the feasibility of three sites at Mildenhall and one, near the north-west perimeter of RAF Wyton, close to the A141.
Although its report rules nothing out or in, it concludes that a move to Mildenhall would probably be cheaper - largely because the runway at Mildenhall would not need strengthening for the heavy aircraft which are part of Marshalls' core business - and because fewer employees would be required if some facilities were shared with the US Air Force, which is still operational there.
But that is a two-edged sword that could give Wyton the advantage. Because the Suffolk base remains operational there are security implications that could tip the balance in Wyton's favour.
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Marshall spokesman John Watkins accepted "both sites have advantages, disadvantages and challenges".
In addition to operating Cambridge Airport, which would remain even if it moved, the firm's military arm designs, manufactures and maintains aircraft. It also hopes to gain contracts for work on the larger C17 planes.
Both Huntingdonshire District Council and its Mildenhall equivalent, Forest Heath District Council, signed confidentiality agreements, giving them access to Marshalls' business plan, enabling them to assess the commercial implications of a move.
Although the Mildenhall runway is slightly longer than Wyton's - which was used for smaller 1950s-designed fighter/bomber/photo-reconnaissance Canberras and Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft until operational flying ceased just over 10 years ago - both runways could cope with Marshalls' needs, Arup found.
The consultants concluded the Wyton option - with more of Marshalls' existing employees living closer than to Mildenhall - would cause fewer transport problems. A move to Mildenhall would add to town centre congestion and to pressure for a new bypass.
The Wyton option would require more construction workers and operational employees. With a workforce of nearly 1,500, the difference of 12 workers is marginal.
All four sites would generate additional aircraft noise, but it would be more noticeable at Wyton because flying, other than light aircraft, ceased 10 years ago. Also, 300 new homes are planned for the western fringe of St Ives, less than a mile from the runway, although take-off and landing movements historically used the northern end of the runway.
It is likely to be a year or more before any decision.