Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group to submit plans for Cranfield as it plots move away from Cambridge Airport
Marshall Aerospace and Defence group is to submit a planning application next year for its proposed move out of Cambridge to Cranfield in Bedfordshire, it was revealed today (October 4).
The company, which intends to vacate Cambridge Airport by 2030, has ruled out the two alternative sites in Cambridgeshire that it was considering at Duxford and RAF Wyton.
Now it has confirmed the Bedfordshire site - where Cranfield University is developing its Air Park - is a “viable and practical option” with “obvious synergies” for the business.
Marshall ADG will prepare an outline planning application to be submitted in autumn 2022. But it said changes brought about the pandemic, and the Ministry of Defence’s decision to retire early the RAF C-130 fleet which Marshall helps maintain, means it has not yet made a final decision on the site.
The company announced relocation plans in May 2019, citing the need for more room to fuel its expansion.
Cambridge Airport sits on land of great development potential.
Marshall confirmed its intention to progress with a planning application for Cranfield after learning that the Greater Cambridge Local Plan preferred options report - the planning blueprint draft by Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council - accepted the airport site as suitable for thousands of new homes along with commercial development.
Marshall CEO Kathy Jenkins said: “Whilst we are disappointed that we haven’t been able to make either Duxford or Wyton work for us we believe, given the obvious synergies between our aerospace business and Cranfield, that it is a very compelling option.
“As such, we will shortly begin the process of preparing an outline planning application, with submission planned in autumn 2022 in order to give us further confidence that we have a deliverable site should we wish to relocate to Cranfield.
“However, like so many businesses, Covid-19 has changed a lot of things for us and this, coupled with recent announcements in relation to the early withdrawal of the RAF’s C-130 fleet, means we are not yet in a position to make a final decision about a choice of new home for our aerospace or land systems businesses.
“Naturally, given the exciting news that the airport land has been included in the Local Plan preferred options, our priority now is to confirm definitive relocation plans as soon as we are practicably able and we look forward to making further announcements in due course.”
Following due diligence on the three shortlisted sites, Marshall ruled out a potential site to the south-west of the existing airfield at Duxford in January 2020, because regulations mean it would have been necessary to reclassify the airspace above the buildings it would have used into a no-fly zone. This would have ruled out aerobatic displays critical to the Imperial War Museum.
Studies at RAF Wyton identified major infrastructure challenges that would need to be resolved to accommodate such a large business.
The Local Plan proposals, which will go out to public consultation in November, suggest that Cambridge East - the airport site - could house 2,850 new homes on a mixed use site by 2041.
Longer-term, it has been suggested that there is space across the whole site for up to 12,000 homes.
Meanwhile, Cranfield University is creating aircraft hangars and an associated business terminal, office space, a hotel and upgrade works in a development expected to generate 600 new jobs.
Granted outline planning permission in April 2018, Cranfield Airport became the first in the UK to operate a digital air traffic control centre in December of that year and is home to the world’s first hydrogen-powered, commercial-scale aircraft.
Marshall signed an options agreement with Cranfield University in October 2020.