By Tom Bristow
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
A £15m plan to develop Norwich airport was unveiled yesterday in a move which aviation bosses said would make a “huge contribution” to securing the area’s future.
Airport chiefs want to develop a 100 acre site into a business area called Norwich Aeropark which they hope will create 1,000 new jobs over the next ten years.
The development will include:
•A huge depot for respraying aeroplanes
•A business park with up to 100,000 square metres of space which will be marketed to aviation firms
Air Livery, the firm which will spearhead the first phase of the Aeropark development, is owned by Air Works India, which repairs and maintains planes on the Indian sub-continent and in the Middle East.
It operates under a subsidiary of Air Works India called the Empire Aviation Group (EAG) which operates private jets in the Middle East.
The firm wants to use the expertise gleaned in Norwich to develop its business back home, but the takeover of Air Livery in 2010 has also been good for the UK business.
In October, managing director Julian Duffen announced Air Livery had signed a major contract with Lufthansa Technik to work on their aircraft.
It was the largest contract ever signed by Air Livery.
Its customers also include Austrian Airlines, City Jet, Aeroflot, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Air Atlanta, Iberia Airlines and KLM.
The firm was previously known as Capeldove and expanded in 2008 when it bought its rival, Sprayavia, which was based at Norwich airport.
The move took Air Livery’s European market share to 70pc.
It now employs around 70 people at its base on Liberator Road in Norwich and can spray aircraft up to the size of Boeing 757s.
But it also carries out work at Southend, East Midlands, Manchester and Bratislava airports.
When initial details of the business park plans at Norwich airport were first announced this summer, Mr Duffen said: “Our base at Norwich International airport has played a key role in growing our business in recent years.
“Having the ability to secure modern premises at the airport is vital to deliver the growth profile we envisage in the future, and today’s announcement marks a significant strategic move forward for the business and a firm commitment to Norwich and our customers.
“Our core market spans a significant part of Europe and we had a number of options as to where these new facilities could be located.
“The East of England, and Norwich International Airport specifically, fit the bill perfectly.”
•A new road linking the airport to the A140 at the Horsford roundabout
The plans will not affect passenger numbers or lead to more flight routes, but airport bosses said the proposals, set to be submitted to Norwich City Council’s planners in January, will help secure the site’s future.
Yesterday, at a public exhibition on the plans, the airport’s chief executive, Andrew Bell, said: “It makes a huge contribution to the airport’s future.
“Our future is not dependent on this, but it will be a huge support towards its sustainability.”
The park, which will be built on disused land to the north east of the main runway, was sparked by Norwich firm Air Livery’s desire for expansion.
The company, which resprays aeroplanes, has outgrown its base on Liberator Road and will double its workforce to 150 people.
In the first stage of the development, Air Livery will move into a 13,400 square metre building with five bays to hold aircraft for respraying.
Mr Bell said: “Our first objective is to give Air Livery the facilities they want, but an obvious consequence was to look at the rest of the site.
“We can create a real momentum here. It is the biggest development at the airport since we were privatised in 2004.”
Alongside the planning application for the Air Livery buildings, the airport, through a company formed with Cambridge property specialists Wrenbridge, will seek outline planning permission to develop the rest of the area.
But Mr Bell said new buildings would only go up as and when they were needed by aviation firms.
The site will be marketed to companies and the airport hopes they will then agree to move to Norwich and the park will be developed.
Planning consultant Gareth Wilson said the initial planning application would be flexible enough to develop the site to firms’ needs.
Mr Bell added: “We are competing with business not just in the UK but in the whole of Europe.
“We have to be able to offer the most flexibility.
“We have the space here, but we also need to be able to offer the skilled labour.”
Mr Bell said they hoped to train workers in Norwich which would mean the new jobs would be filled locally rather than going to people from outside the area.
Broadland District Council leader Andrew Proctor backed the plans to create the high-skilled jobs.
He said: “We have impressed upon the airport that some of these skills exist in Norfolk, but we want to give training and create the jobs within the local economy.”
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith described the Aeropark as an “excellent opportunity” for Norwich. “It will bring jobs to the area and extensive economic activity,” she said. “Norwich should embrace the chance to show off its industry.”
The entrance to the site will be built from the Horsford roundabout on the A140 with an initial investment of around £4m.
But airport bosses hope the park’s main entrance will eventually link to the Northern Distributor Road (NDR).
The NDR outline has a roundabout just north of the airport where an entrance could be built.