Over the border: Planned development of North Weald airfield could see 3,000 jobs
News / Sun 19th Mar 2023 at 12:58pm
A PLANNED development for 40,000 square metres of offices and warehouses could create nearly 3,000 new jobs, according to a planning blueprint approved by Essex councillors reports the Local Democracy Reporting Scheme.
Members of Epping Forest District Council’s cabinet said at a meeting last night (March 13) they hoped to attract science and tech industries to North Weald Airfield, one of two key employment sites allocated in the authority’s recently-adopted local plan for business, industrial, storage and distribution uses.
The cabinet approved a masterplan for the site at the meeting, which will have to be taken into account when planning applications come forward in the future.
The plan has set out a vision for the airfield as a modern employment area, and aims to promote a mix different types of businesses, boost the local economy, support sustainable transport such as walking and cycling and protect the heritage of the area, including a grade II listed control tower. According to the plan, up to 2,900 new jobs are estimated to be based at the site.
However, some opposition councillors raise concerns over the accuracy of the estimated job numbers and warned against the site being used predominantly for warehousing.
Council Nigel Bedford (Con, Shelley) said at the meeting: “The strategic masterplan is crucial to the area, that it will unlock ambitious investment, provide significant local employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, therefore boosting the local economy of North Weald Bassett.”
He later said the figures were and estimate and the end result depended on which companies occupy the airfield.
But some councillors said they felt the numbers were “too good to be true.” Opposition Councillor Howard Kauffman (Loughton Residents Association, Loughton St Mary’s) told the cabinet he had concerns the job numbers were “not real” and stressed the council should have control over what type of businesses come to the site, prioritising science and technology.
He said: “If this goes heavily towards warehousing, we know how low the numbers are. The number of jobs in warehousing are woefully short. This is a site that can take new age industries, high tech industries, perhaps things that are looking forwards not backwards.”
Council leader Chris Whitbread (Con, Epping Lindsey and Thornwood Common) said: “I think that’s an important challenge to us as a council as a whole, to make sure that we have those controls in place.”
In addition to the airfield, the wider village of North Weald Bassett has been allocated in the local plan for 1,050 homes. The area is also in the UK innovation corridor between London and Cambridge. The cabinet voted to keep aviation operations running at the site, with the airfield set to continue as an unlicensed aerodrome while any development takes place.