Diggers move in at old Sheffield Airport

Diggers at Sheffield airport
Diggers at Sheffield airport
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After years of quiet, what was Sheffield City Airport is suddenly a hive of activity - but there’s not a plane in site of course.

Giant diggers are busy moving earth around, as not one but two projects on the old runway have started.

The Tarmac has yet to be touched - but its life can now be measured in weeks or possibly even days.

At the city end of the strip, contractors for Sheffield Business Park are preparing the site for factories, landscaping and building an access road.

Known simply as ‘Phase Two’ it includes about three-quarters of the runway. Plots will be ready from January.

Sheffield Business Park boss Graham Sadler said there had been “a lot” of interest - and they were in discussions about launching their own speculative building scheme.

At the other end of the runway - site of the old terminal building and control tower - another set of contractors has just arrived to make a start on Factory 2050 for the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing.

It will be the first building on a new Advanced Manufacturing Campus which could result in Sheffield University building up to a one million square feet of research facilities on the site of the former Sheffield City Airport over the next seven to 10 years.

The news will come as a double blow to campaigners who had hoped to see the airport reopened.

It closed in 2008 after reporting losses of more than £1m. Last year, more than 5,500 people signed a petition calling for development to be put on hold.

But Graham Sadler said there was no business case for re-opening it. And expansion plans could create up to 3,000 jobs and had the “ability to contribute to the economic growth of the city.”

The business park received a £1.8m injection of Government cash to pay for preparation works.

Interserve Construction this week moved Portakabins and vehicles onsite at the start of Factory 2050. Completion is scheduled for autumn 2015.

A landmark, glass-walled ‘reconfigurable factory’ has been designed to meet demand for high levels of flexibility.

The idea is that a factory making aerospace components one day could produce automotive parts another day and mass produced “personalised” components the week after that.

Sheffield architects Bond Bryan’s design will allow machines and manufacturing modules to be moved around the shop floor.

The circular Factory 2050 will also have a rectangular extension large enough to accommodate an aircraft wing, designed to help the UK maintain its lead in the field.

Prof Keith Ridgway, executive dean at the AMRC, said: “This is part of our long-term development in high-value manufacturing which is an area that this region is an international lead.”

Building Factory 2050 is set to pump £6.4m into the local economy and create 162 jobs. Once operational it will employ 75 people and contribute almost £2m annually to the local economy.