Alconbury airfield development starts to take off

A PLANNING application to underpin the new enterprise zone at Alconbury Airfield is expected to be lodged with Huntingdonshire District Council before Christmas, developers Urban and Civic said this week.

But the first thing the public will see is 2,250 trees and shrubs – some mature, some saplings – planted along the Ermine Street boundary and near the entrance to the site.

The ‘enabling application’ will allow U&C to carry out preparatory work to help shape the new enterprise zone, attract new businesses and support existing tenants through the construction phases, project director Tim Leathes said.

“The application will include a number of permissions that will not be put immediately into play but will help us react flexibly if larger companies want space on the site,” he added.

Early tasks include constructing a new entrance further north of the existing North Gate and enhancing the existing entrance, laying new roads and infrastructure inside the site, and landscaping and lighting for the first phase of the enterprise zone.

The next few months will also see delivery of another of a series of pledges U&C gave after nearly 2,500 people turned out to take a look at the plans in late September, with the planting this winter of the first few thousand of more than half a million new trees on the site.

“In all we will be planting over 2,250 native trees and shrubs, including oak, ash, cherry, hazel and maple alongside privet, hawthorn and crabapple,” Mr Leathes said. And the company was already incorporating public comments from the September event into a masterplan for the 1,400 acres.

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Urban and Civic has also promised to maximise the number of jobs undertaken by local people through its links with Huntingdonshire Regional College and Jobcentre Plus, keep traffic out of the Stukeleys and provide a green shield for the villages, as well as protecting open spaces on the site permanently.

The company is talking to Network Rail about a passenger station adjacent to the main railway line, and wants ultimately to link the development to the A141 Huntingdon northern bypass.

The masterplan, expected next spring, will show how an employment-led scheme providing 8,000 jobs, 5,000 new homes, community facilities and hundreds of acres of formal and informal open space will be delivered over the next 20 years.

U&C has promised to protect buildings of historical interest – some are listed anyway – though it says it will need to demolish some less attractive structures if that is necessary to accommodate larger companies wanting to relocate to the enterprise zone.

“Now we have the enterprise zone confirmed and a great deal of positive feedback from the design enquiry, we have a real passion to start shaping the new future of the airfield. Working with the parish and district councils, we have developed an attractive scheme to improve the Ermine Street boundary, and we have a great opportunity to re-design the entrances to manage construction traffic and minimise its impact,” Mr Leathes said.