THE multi-million pound project to turn Alconbury Airfield into 1,400 acres of homes, workplaces and recreation facilities has begun in earnest.

The initial work includes putting in a new entrance specifically for heavy commercial vehicles and reconfiguring and landscaping the current North Gate entrance to make it more suitable for bicycles, pedestrians and cars.

Eventually, the 575-hectare site will include an enterprise zone of at least 150 hectares, which will provide many of the 8,000 high-quality jobs planned for three million square feet of the former bomber base, 5,000 new green homes, three primary schools and a further education complex. Half the area will be reserved for community and recreational use, much of it newly-planted woodland.

Tim Leathes, project manager for developer Urban&Civic, which bought the airfield in 2009 and is behind the provision of the Government-backed enterprise campus and the Alconbury Weald development, said yesterday (Tuesday): "After two years of planning and discussions, it is great to get started with transforming the look and feel of the site into its new focus on skilled jobs and low carbon innovation.

"We are also starting as we mean to go on, by using two local companies for the work."

The company is providing a new construction entrance, on the B1043 (the old A1) to the north of the present entrance. Once completed by the end of the year, it will become a designated entry and exit point for all heavy lorries, both for the construction of the enterprise zone and existing lorries using the site in its current logistics capacity.

Following completion of the new entrance, work will start on a more landscaped and open Gateway entrance to the site at North Gate, a spokesman said yesterday.

"This work will also create a boulevard of over 60 semi-mature trees which will be developed alongside - and provide the setting for - the anticipated first new building, the 'Incubator'." The building is expected to get planning consent shortly and, once built, will house U&C's own offices.

The main delivery of the early infrastructure is being carried out by Jackson Civil Engineering, based in Huntingdon. The work has also been supported by Peterborough-based quantity surveyors CCM Associates.

Neil Robinson, regional manager for Jackson Civil Engineering, said: "We're delighted to be involved at the start of this exciting project. As a local business, it's great to be part of a project that will pave the way for business growth in the region, especially during these tough economic times."