1. What is LoCATE?
Before the RAF withdrew from Biggin Hill there were 2,000 personnel on the base and fast, noisy fighter jets using the airport all the time. Over the past 30 plus years there have been individual initiatives and piecemeal developments but no successful strategy for how the airport and the redundant buildings and land around it should be best used. This uncertainty has given rise to wider public concerns about possible future developments, and several initiatives, including the proposed Heritage Centre; have yet to get off the ground.
LoCATE is a public/private partnership established to listen and learn from all stakeholders in an effort to provide a cohesive direction for all of the employment areas at Biggin Hill. It will also provide an input to Bromley Council as the Local Planning Authority who must balance the environmental, social and economic factors when it prepares its Local Development Framework.
2. Who is involved?
LoCATE is not one single company or interest. It comprises local landowners, businesses and operators such as Rizon, Jet Aviation, Formula One, Autoflame and owners of the Airport Industrial Estate, and the airport company itself, all of whom are keen to see a coordinated approach taken to maximise the economic development potential of the area. Bromley Council and surrounding local authorities will also participate. Inputs from residents’ associations, lobby groups and other activists, and the many users of the airport have all been invited to contribute to the process.
3. What has happened so far?
The Draft London Plan has recommended that Biggin Hill should be designated as a Strategic Outer London Development Centre (SOLDC), a policy supported by the London Boroughs of Bromley and Croydon. The policy aims to identify, develop and promote strategic development centres in outer London, to co-ordinate public and private infrastructure investment, bring forward development capacity, create a distinct business offer and improve London’s access to employment opportunities.
So far, a LoCATE Steering Group has produced this document and agreed eight practical projects on which to focus their initial activity via working groups.
4. How will it work?
LoCATE will operate under an independent chairman who will receive inputs from participating stakeholders and working groups. So far those involved in setting up LoCATE have included representatives from all the local authorities and most of the businesses expected to be within the SOLDC area.
5. What will the result look like?
LoCATE will formulate a vision and strategy for the development of the employment areas of Biggin Hill as an SOLDC which can help inform new policies in the emerging Local Development Framework being prepared during 2011 by Bromley Council. Inputs will also be made into the planning policies of the London Borough of Croydon and other adjoining boroughs.
6. Why is it needed?
The Mayor of London commissioned a study into areas of opportunity for new employment in the outer areas of London. The report recommended that a number of centres be identified around London where economic development can be generated and better use made of existing assets. Biggin Hill is a prime example of what the Mayor is looking to achieve by this. For example, much of the former RAF camp remains empty and to bring it back into use will require considerable investment to replace old infrastructure, modernise buildings and provide the necessary facilities. Similarly, the Airport Industrial Estate needs to modernise and bring back into use several buildings that have stood empty for some time. In this way, new employment opportunities can be created that are accessible to local people.
7. Can I contribute?
Yes, input will be welcomed from local residents and other stakeholders. Over many years, action groups have been formed, political arguments raised and businesses have invested whilst others have packed up and left. Overall, many hopes have been raised and dashed, and zero progress made. Today the economy needs new sustainable jobs and to balance the environmental, economic and social challenges facing society. Some people are concerned about noise, pollution and road traffic whilst others are concerned at the absence of new modern jobs, employment prospects and careers for young people.
LoCATE will welcome inputs from all those interested in how Biggin Hill can accommodate these different objectives, and make better use of existing assets.
8. What sort of jobs and companies are proposed?
LoCATE will draw from its own studies and those prepared by Bromley Council, Croydon Council and neighbouring boroughs and seek to generate demand from a wide range of industries. LoCATE will also assess the types of companies for whom a location next to the airport will be of value, such as Formula One, who based their administration centre at Biggin Hill many years ago because they use the airport extensively.
9. Does this mean more passenger flights?
No, the airport is growing as a Business and General Aviation airport, on exactly the same lines as the council determined in 1974, when they bought the airport and at successive reviews, which means it has air taxis and light charter but does not have scheduled passenger flights that could cause any road congestion.
10. Will the airport become like Luton, City and other airports?
No, LoCATE is seeking to attract business demand to use the vacant land and buildings in West Camp, the industrial estate and this may of course generate more flights than in most recent years. There is no plan to change the legal maximum number of flights or noise allowed by flights. LoCATE is an initiative project to make better use of existing assets, many of which are underutilised.
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