PLANS to create manufacturing jobs near Rugby have been resurrected by Coventry Airport after the government controversially blocked planning permission for its Gateway scheme on a huge swathe of surrounding Greenbelt land.
It says the new plan could create 600 jobs – a tenth of the jobs considered possible under the Gateway – on 30 acres formerly used for Thomsonfly passenger flights to popular international tourist destinations.
Some campaigners who opposed the Gateway told the Observer they fear the new scheme could ultimately be used to advance a case that the wider Gateway scheme should be resurrected.
Since the then communities secretary Eric Pickles MP blocked the Gateway scheme on environmental grounds in February, some business and planning chiefs at Coventry and Warwick councils have mooted the prospect of resurrecting the Gateway scheme by removing the land from Greenbelt classification in Local Plans.
More than a thousand objectors including Kenilworth MP Jeremy Wright and Warwickshire parish councils had warned two councils – Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council – that the Gateway manufacturing and warehousing scheme was in the wrong place in the Greenbelt, and could not create anything like the proposed 10,000 jobs. Campaigners own commissioned research suggested 6,000 was the maximum possible.
But both councils’ planning committees had backed the Gateway scheme, and Coventry MPs joined ruling Labour councillors and business leaders in condemning Mr Pickles’ decision.
The airport – owned by tycoon businessman Sir Peter Rigby – announced on Friday (July 24) its new plan for ‘600 jobs’ with the creation of a manufacturing and warehousing hub on a 30-acre site, previously used for the airport’s passenger facilities.
It is supported by leading council and business figures.
The latest scheme to the south of the airport – where Coventry City Council owns the freehold – would be carried out by Ostrava Property, a newly-formed company within the Rigby Group specialist property investment division.
Budget airline Thomsons last used the land for passenger facilities in 2008, which came to an end after government planning inspectors blocked passenger expansion plans.
The airport now wants to develop its freight operations and create a major international cargo hub for the region, while retaining some executive passenger flights.
Airport expansion plans have been bolstered by the soon to be completed £100million upgrade of the nearby Tollbar Island roundabout.
Peter Burns, president of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Coventry Airport Consultative Committee, said: “This part of the site has been largely redundant since the ceasing of passenger flights and with the airport developing in a different direction, it makes total sense to bring that area back to economic life.”
Coun Maton, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Business, a keen advocate of Gateway, said: “Our recent success in attracting manufacturing and business here means we’ve a real and urgent need for employment land in Coventry, so this is good news for jobs and growth for the city.”
Anti-Gateway campaigners had argued Greenbelt land surrounding the airport was the wrong site for development given there were other more suitable brownfield sites already allocated for employment land across the city and region.