2nd Jul, 2022

'Viable' firms based at Coventry Airport 'fear for their futures' over Gigafactory plans

Tristan Harris 8th Sep, 2021 Updated: 8th Sep, 2021

THE BOSS of one of many businesses based at Coventry Airport has hit out at proposals to replace their base with a new Gigafactory.

Sky Harbour UK Ltd moved to the site on February 1 and said it was not told about the plans to dispose of the airport despite them being publicised in the press a fortnight later.

Steven Ford, CEO of Sky Harbour, specialising in aviation consultancy, supporting owner operators and business aircraft, said it was dependent on Coventry Airport being operational for it to trade.

It moved to the site for the good access to airspace so it could carry out its flight test, research and development and focus on emerging technologies.

It fears the demolition would see the end of its business which would otherwise continue to be viable if Coventry Airport remained.

It added the proposals were also at odds with The Rt Hon Robert Courts MP who, in a ministerial statement on April 27, said the ‘grassroots’ General Aviation sector was worth nearly £4billion to the UK economy, supporting nearly 40,000 jobs.

He attributed that to ‘the hundreds of aerodromes up and down the country forming an important part of the nation’s transport infrastructure’.

He added: “It is only right the Government’s vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world for General Aviation as a flourishing, wealth generating and job-producing sector of the economy.”

The company has lodged formal complaints with both Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council.

Among its 24 objections are the plans would lead to the loss of viable businesses and jobs, it conflicting with the Government’s ‘levelling up’ policy and it contradicting both the local and district plans and the National Planning Policy Framework for Green Belt protection.

It also points out Coventry Airport is home to the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.

Mr Ford added: “Speculative property development, often with no defined end user is not limited to Coventry Airport but is evident across the entire country.

“With 8million square feet of development land being offered as being available at Coventry Airport, Exeter Airport, Norwich Airport and Bournemouth Airport, Mr Courts is right to be concerned, as should the country.

“As an island nation reliant on trade and commerce, we would not dream of filling in all of the harbours.

“Airports are an integral infrastructure that are worthy of our protection as more electrical propulsion and air mobility solutions emerge over the next decade.”

Capt Peter A Jones, the chairman of CATUA – Coventry Airport Tenants and Users Association – said neither he nor any of the members were aware of the airport’s proposed disposal until it was revealed on February 15.

Sky Harbour UK was planning to employee 50 people over the next two years but is just one of countless companies on the site dependent on the airport.

Other firms in the supply chain which leads to Coventry Airport-based businesses will also be impacted on, along with jobs at those firms.

Coun Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, said, “A gigafactory at Coventry Airport represents a once in a generation opportunity to create 6,000 new jobs, £434million in GVA, and help deliver Net Zero.

“It will also support our iconic automotive industry, creating and protecting tens of thousands of jobs in the sector.

“Coventry Airport is the ideal site for a gigafactory, and has been backed by the entire region.

“It sits at the heart of an advanced automotive and battery ecosystem, adjacent to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, and close to WMG at the University of Warwick, and leading car makers such as Jaguar Land Rover, London EV Company, and Aston Martin Lagonda.

“Having submitted a planning application in July 2021, it is still relatively early in the development process.

“However, we will work closely with our partners across the region to support businesses currently based at and around the airport to re-locate.”

A Warwick District Council spokesperson said: “The application by the owners of Coventry Airport (Coventry City Council) to redevelop their site as a Gigafactory is currently moving through the statutory planning process, therefore any representations made will be considered as part of the assessment of the planning application.”

 

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