Air cadets and youth footballers stand to lose their homes if proposed Stansted Airport business park takes off
A squadron of air cadets based at Stansted Airport is facing eviction in its 30th anniversary year because of a planned business park development.
The 494 (Stansted Airport) Squadron Air Training Corps (ATC), whose number refers to the American bomber unit stationed at the airfield during the Second World War, operates out of its purpose-built home off Second Avenue – "slap bang in the middle" of where Threadneedle Curtis Ltd wants to develop the 153-acre (61.8ha) park within the northern boundary of the airport.
Squadron chairman Michael Dodd said they were facing an uncertain future with no alternative accommodation offered by Threadneedle, which would bulldoze their building as part of the first phase of the development if it gets the go-ahead.
With Uttlesford District Council unable to determine large-scale planning applications after it was put into 'special measures' by the Government for its poor planning performance, it is likely the scheme's future lies in the hands of the Planning Inspectorate.
Mr Dodd said there had been little communication from Threadneedle. "They haven't said 'It's all right, we'll relocate you' – they would like to evict us at the earliest opportunity, to evict a youth group that will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It's hanging over our heads," he told Stansted Parish Council as he appealed for support.
The parish council has since submitted its comments on the application. stating: "We are concerned that the ATC... has been given notice to quit without any reprovision suggested. As with the youth football pitches, the minimum we would expect is an alternative site to be allocated by Columbia Threadneedle on the new development or a requirement that [Stansted Airport owner] Manchester Airports Group (MAG) offers an alternative within the boundary."
The ATC was originally housed in the former airport police station after officers were relocated to Enterprise House. Mr Dodd said the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA), which acts as land agents, then leased a parcel of land off Second Avenue and built them their own headquarters.
Elsenham Youth Football Club, which leases part of the site, also stands to lose its playing fields with no alternative as yet secured. Sport England has stepped in on its behalf to object.
Mr Dodd added: "When we first found out about the development, that MAG had sold the land to Threadneedle, I made the RFCA aware as they will do all the negotiating. We registered our involvement because Threadneedle had made no contact with us to say 'By the way, we're going to build a new development on this site'. They've since been in contact with the RFCA who said where we are is the first phase of development, but haven't said 'It's all right, we'll relocate you'."
The youth organisation has around 20 members aged 12 to 20 and meets every Monday and Thursday. It is currently on a recruitment drive to attract new youngsters post-pandemic.
Mr Dodd said it played a vital role in encouraging young people with an interest in aviation. "They learn a whole range of aviation topics, get the opportunity to go flying and gliding, learn first aid and can take part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme as well as BTEC qualifications – it covers a broad range of skills."
The land to the north of the airport – including part of the airfield, its buildings and hangars – is currently restricted to airport-related use.
Threadneedle said its proposals for a business park would not only “prohibit the airport from using this land for future expansion” but also better utilise the site.
In a statement it said: "We aim to create a business, logistics and technology park north of Stansted Airport, with outstanding sustainability credentials and attracting innovation, green investment and employment opportunities.
"We are working with all stakeholders and community groups through the planning process, including 494 (Stansted Airport) Squadron Air Training Corps and Elsenham Youth Football Club, for whom we are actively exploring relocation options.”