Fears eased over future of £12m International Aviation Academy

Prime minister Boris Johnson visits the Aviation Academy in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Prime minister Boris Johnson visits the Aviation Academy in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

The future of a £12m academy created to train the next generation of pilots and engineers in the aviation industry was in question - but a solution has been found to put it on a surer footing.

The International Aviation Academy Norwich. Picture: New Anglia LEP.

The International Aviation Academy Norwich. Picture: New Anglia LEP. - Credit: Archant

The International Aviation Academy Norwich (IAAN) was created in a former 1930s hangar, close to Norwich Airport, in 2017 and prime ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson have both been shown around it.

The building is owned by Norse Group - an arms length company of Norfolk County Council, with City College Norwich and KLM providing aviation industry training.

It features an ‘emulation zone’, containing a redundant Boeing 737 for practical training, and a ‘study zone’ for more traditional classroom and research study.

Both KLM and City College Norwich have attracted students on to courses, but not to the extent that the whole of the building is being used.

The International Aviation Academy Norwich building. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The International Aviation Academy Norwich building. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

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And, in documents lodged with Norwich City Council, NPS Group, part of the Norse Group, said: “This lack of income has threatened the viability of the project”.

With just over half of the building being used and only 36pc of target rental coming in, the documents said: “Those levels are not a sustainable position for the academy in its present form.”

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To find a solution, an application was submitted to Norwich City Council for part of the ‘study zone’ area at the Anson Road building to be turned into offices - which Norse Group staff would move into.

“The use of the study space by Norse for office use would both satisfy the company’s need of additional accommodation and gives the academy a financially secure and sustainable future without compromising the amount of educational accommodation provided for their use,” according to the application submitted to the city council.

That permission has been granted, which should make the academy sustainable.

A spokeswoman for Norse Group said: “In this proposal - and it is still very early days - Norse Group is considering options to make use of currently spare space in the Aviation Academy building, which it owns.

“The International Aviation Academy Norwich would continue to successfully operate within the existing facility, and there would continue to be plenty of scope for it to further expand as its offering develops.

“As a publicly owned company, Norse Group takes very seriously its responsibility to make full and proper use of its buildings as this ultimately benefits the public purse.

“As part of continually reviewing our own efficient use of office space, this proposal looks to explore bringing under one roof more parts of our business and reduce the need to rent commercial office space elsewhere.”

A spokesman for City College Norwich said: “Our fifth cohort of BSc Professional Aviation Engineering Practice degree students have just started their programme with us at the International Aviation Academy Norwich.

“The IAAN’s industry-standard facilities are also used by young engineers on aviation engineering programmes and apprentices from a range of employers.

“We are looking forward to building on the successes of these programmes and the students who have graduated from them.

“We will continue to work closely with Norse Group, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, and other key stakeholders, to ensure that the IAAN retains its core purpose.”

But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said the move raised questions.

He said: “There were high hopes for the aviation academy which, clearly, do not seem to have materialised. It is time we had a proper look at it, so I will be asking for this to be added to an agenda for a council scrutiny committee.”

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