A SWEEPING tree-lined boulevard will draw employees and visitors into the new enterprise zone being developed at Alconbury Airfield, if Huntingdonshire planners agree in the new years.

The airfield's owners, Urban&Civic, this week lodged a 600-page 'enabling application' that will provide the basis for initial work on about one-third of the 150-hectare zone - itself just a small part of the 575-acre airfield site that will ultimately provide 8,000 jobs and 5,000 homes.

The application, which the developers hope will be approved in February or March, paves the way for a new entrance gate for construction traffic, in a corner of the site off the old A1, a tree-lined showcase avenue across the site from the existing entrance, which will be re-modelled, environmentally-friendly lighting and a variety of other infrastructure works.

It will also give Urban&Civic consent to demolish some unused and unusable buildings in the area earmarked for the EZ, though they have promised to work closely with English Heritage and Huntingdonshire District Council to retain any unlisted buildings with historic merit, as well as the listed buildings.

Construction traffic movements will be minimised by using hardcore reclaimed from elsewhere on the airfield as a base for the spine road.

Project director Tim Leathes said: "This application is essentially about preparing a part of the site for redevelopment, and making sure the infrastructure is in place so that when construction does get going for the enterprise zone we have measures in place to minimise the impacts on our neighbours, local villages and on our existing tenants and businesses.

"We will also be planting lots of big trees to create some impact, as well as planting a huge amount of smaller trees and shrubs to lay the foundations for the important green infrastructure of the site and to provide screening for surrounding villages," he added.

"While this is the first application we are putting in, it only covers preparatory works over a very small area of the site. This work is for the enterprise zone and does not cover the full vision for the site as a whole," he stressed.

"We are still on target to put in the outline planning application which sets out our proposed vision for the whole site in spring 2012, and we will be carrying out our own pre-application discussions with local villages on that in February and March, before the District Council leads the formal consultation after its submission."

Neville Reyner, chairman of the Greater Cambridge-Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "We are most keen to see work on the zone start as soon as possible so as to provide new space for business and to create a centre for opportunity for business and jobs growth within our LEP area, in line with aspirations."

INFORMATION: HDC plans to run a formal consultation process on the enabling application from January 3 to 24.