Firms queue up for possible Alconbury EZ moves

AN array of local, regional and international companies has expressed interest in locating to the new enterprise zone at Alconbury Airfield – even before there has been time to prepare any marketing materials – the site’s owner said this week.

And he believes the early visit to the former USAF airfield by Sir Bob Kerslake, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, means the Government believes Alconbury will be the first of the 10 new zones announced a month ago to lead the company out of the economic doldrums.

Robin Butler, whose company Urban&Civic bought the 1,200-acre site two years ago, believes the benefits – up to �275,000 in business rates waiver, an accelerated planning system, and the guarantee of Government-backed superfast broadband – were powerful incentives to bring important employers to Huntingdonshire.

Three types of facility are planned: incubator units for small, expanding companies, larger premises for rent to bigger firms, and the prospect of selling land in the zone to larger companies to build premises as owner occupiers.

Enquiries to Urban&Civic, the local enterprise partners and local authorities have come from a wide range of firms, from small enterprises looking to expand from maybe two employees to 10 on the one hand to one company looking for more than 100,000 square feet of space.

“And we haven’t yet got the marketing story out, though we may have an initial brochure in time for the [public] exhibition on Saturday,” Mr Butler said.

“The uses I expect to see in due course are a mixture of services to business and the general public, a lot of spin-off business in the clean-tech area, biotech companies, food technology and clean manufacturing.”

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A masterplan for the whole site – not just the 150 hectares earmarked for the enterprise zone – is expected in the autumn, with a view to the first planning applications being submitted early next year and the EZ being in full swing by 2015.

The masterplan will be informed by the public’s reaction to the owners’ outline proposals for a low-carbon environment, extensive use of public transport – Mr Butler wants the site to have a passenger railway station as well as bus services – landscaping and use of water.

“We absolutely want as many people as possible to come on Saturday.

The event, which also includes exhibitions and displays, free parking and giant ferris wheel, a bouncy castle, hog roast and ice creams, runs from 1pm until 5pm.