THE process of bringing 8,000 new jobs and 5,000 homes to Alconbury Airfield came a step closer to achievement on Monday with councillors’ approval of enabling works at the 1,420-acre site.

It means developers Urban and Civic, which bought most of the site in autumn 2009 and adjacent farmland the following year, can start work on infrastructure for the 150 hectares (370 acres) that will become a fully-fledged enterprise zone by 2015.

Planning consent given by Huntingdonshire District Council's development management panel on Monday means U&C can start work on new construction entrance to the site, new internal roads and drainage systems, the necessary demolition work, and to set in place an iconic tree-lined boulevard that will start to transform the former airfield into a centre for innovation and enterprise, a company spokesman said.

"The enterprise zone is just part of Urban&Civic's future plans for the brownfield site, and we will be bringing forward an outline application in the next few months for a high-quality low-carbon development creating 8,000 jobs, 5,000 homes and crafting 700 acres of green space - including the planting of half a million trees."

There will also be a planning application for an 'incubator unit' to house small start-up businesses in the enterprise zone, and U&C's proposed masterplan for the site is expected to form part of the outline application.

Managing director Robin Butler said: "Alconbury sits on the spine of the country, with transport links running north to south, east to west, and close links to air and sea ports.

"It has fantastic infrastructure and resources on site from its military legacy, and is at the heart of the dynamic Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough economic area - surrounded by innovation, cutting-edge 'cleantech' industry, and a skilled workforce.

"We are setting the bar high with the quality of development and strong sustainable principles, providing low-carbon flexible space to allow businesses to grow and communities to develop in harmony with and surrounded by the natural environment.

"This early infrastructure investment is the first part of ensuring those elements are realised".

The developers are also working with Jobcentre Plus and Huntingdonshire Regional College to ensure that the development helps provide training, skills development and jobs for local people.

The initial response will include a training centre on site, up and running from April 1, and will expand into a jobs and skills brokerage scheme as the development goes ahead.

Neville Reyner, chairman of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, added: "This is a significant milestone in the development of the enterprise zone, and I am impressed with how quickly HDC has been able to process and determine Urban&Civic's application.

"I am now looking forward to seeing the rapid development of fantastic new facilities for businesses at Alconbury, which will support our ambitious plans for economic and jobs growth within the wider LEP area."

HDC development manager Andy Moffatt said that the panel meeting: "Members welcomed the start to development at Alconbury Airfield and saw this as the first of many applications to deliver the council's aspirations for Alconbury and the enterprise zone."