Coventry Airport ‘enterprise zone’ could boost economy but come at cost of green belt

Coventry Airport could be the hub of a Government-backed ‘enterprise zone’ created to generate thousands of new jobs.

But politicians have urged caution over a possible return to commercial flights and expansion onto green belt land.

Coventry and Warwickshire’s newly created local enterprise partnership has named the airport as its preferred site after the Department for Communities and Local Government ruled its bid for a zone was acceptable.

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The airport is in Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright’s constituency. Both he and Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White were wary of a return to commercial flights and said they would need to see full details.

Mr White said creating jobs was the “number one priority” but warned of the need for “sensitivity” regarding development at the airport.

The enterprise zone would be one of 21 planned nationwide to create new - not relocated - jobs, with tax breaks including a business rate waiver for five years, ‘radically simplified’ planning and super-fast broadband.

The airport’s operator Patriot Aerospace, headed by businessman Sir Peter Rigby, announced plans in May to create a £250 million economic hub, creating up to 10,000 jobs.

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The enterprise partnership’s proposal will be based on expansions at neighbouring business parks, with possible links to Jaguar Land Rover’s site at Whitley and the former Peugeot plant at Ryton-on-Dunsmore.

The partnership, working with Warwick District Council and other groups, must submit a detailed bid by June 30. The council’s executive committee on Wednesday called for members to clear their diaries for a full briefing on June 27.

Overview and scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Bill Gifford (Lib Dem, Leamington Milverton) said there were concerns but also “enormous possibilities”.

He said: “This could be the most important decision we make over the next four years. It involves thousands of jobs, air traffic, site negotiations and planning.

“If we get it wrong it could have massive implications.”

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Members called for the council to become fully involved to ensure its interests were represented.

Cllr John Hammon (Con, Cubbington) said infrastructure needed improvement and feared the authority had too little time to tell those living in villages nearby.

He said: “It is very important to all these villages.

“But this isn’t necessarily just the airport, this is jobs.”

The enterprise parnership’s board is due to meet on Monday to discuss the bid.