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Agenda item

Update on Boscombe Down and Economic Development in the Amesbury Community Area

To receive an update from Richard Walters, Head of Service, Major Projects, on Boscombe Down and economic development in the community area.



The meeting received an update from Richard Walters, Head of Service, Major Projects, on Boscombe Down and economic development in the community area.


Mr Walters stated he was working on several major projects in the Amesbury and Salisbury Area, including Proton Science Park, the Maltings and Central car park, the A303 and Boscombe Down, so he was very familiar with the issues and challenges in the Amesbury Area.


Boscombe Down was a strategically important 300 ha site which was managed by QinetiQ under a long term partnering agreement with DIO (a MOD infrastructure organisation). Unique facilities at the site included the longest military airstrip in the UK, the Empire Test Pilot School and the QinetiQ Apprenticeship Training School. There were currently around 1,500 jobs on site whose main focus was on maintenance, repair and the operation/testing of military aircraft. There was scope for sustainable growth in order to secure the base’s long term future and to capture opportunities in the aerospace sector.


The South West of England hosts one of the largest and most significant aerospace clusters in the world, worth more than £7 billion. The South West had a strong network of world class companies and an excellent supply chain. Therefore the economic potential was huge. High value jobs create opportunities, for example 1 direct job in aerospace created 1 indirect job in the economy. The aerospace sector in the UK grew 39% between 2012 and 2017. 68% of businesses in aerospace employ apprentices and trainees.  


National policy objectives had identified the aerospace and defence aerospace sector as a key potential node of growth – and Boscombe in particular as a location that was already established with core capabilities. The Council had been working with its partners on the ground at Boscombe Down – QinetiQ and the MoD in particular, to explore this potential and identify opportunities for growth.


Boeing had shortlisted Boscombe Down as a new UK centre, Wiltshire Council were working with them to move this forward. Within local policy the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership had identified Boscombe Down as an opportunity in the Strategic Economic Plan, with the potential to support the delivery of high value jobs. Wiltshire Council Core Policy 37 also supported new development and changes of use at operational facilities that help to enhance or sustain their operational capability. The focus on Boscombe Down was part of a focus upon South Wiltshire, which also involved the Porton Science Campus, the new Science Park at Porton Down, the A303 Expressway and the Salisbury and Amesbury recovery strategy.


Going forward the Council, QinetiQ and DIO all shared an ambition to modernise and grow aerospace activity at the airbase. There would be a focus on employment-led development determined through a master planning approach with the local community and the potential to support further growth in MoD operations. Wiltshire Council were committed to enhance or create a new access from the A303 to the airbase. A master plan was being developed for the whole site however work was not yet advanced enough to consult upon. However there was a commitment from all parties to share plans with the community at the earliest opportunity. Mr Walters thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak.


Cllr Fred Westmoreland stated that Porton Road, Main Road and Stockport Road provided totally inadequate access to Boscombe Down. The people who live there struggle to access Amesbury. A possible solution  to this was that the work started at Solstice Park could link through to Boscombe Down. Otherwise it was felt that the new employees of Boscombe Down would add further to the already problematic congestion in Amesbury, meaning that Boscombe Down would blight Amesbury rather than help it. In response Mr Walters stated that they wanted to provide a sustainable, long term solution and that there were a number of ideas in play, which would be consulted on.


In response to a question from the Chair, Mr Walters stated that housing would be considered as part of the plan, however he could not yet give details on the masterplan.


In response to comments from Cllr Robert Yuill regarding problems accessing Boscombe Down via the main gate, it was stated that transport consultants were looking at all the issues. There were no details yet, however, they would consult on plans.


In response to questions from the Amesbury History Centre as to why funding was being provided from local sources (for example SWLEP), rather than from national sources, as Boscombe Down and Porton Down were national assets, it was stated that the Council got a 200 year lease from Porton Down to develop the Porton Science Park. The SWLEP were seeking to support the aerospace industry so that jobs and economic growth could be developed.


The Chairman thanked Mr Walters for his presentation.





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