The green light is set to be given to Coventry Airport gigafactory plans – despite huge opposition.
Planning officers at Warwick District Council are recommending that the proposed gigafactory to build batteries for electric cars at Coventry Airport is given the go-ahead.
If given the go-ahead, the development would be the largest single plant manufacturing operation in the UK.
It would boast ancillary office, warehousing and distribution covering a developable area of 79.9ha.
It will be split into two ‘zones’, which will deliver a maximum floorspace of 529,648m². It is assumed that there will be two main phases of development.
At the end of Phase 1, the proposed development would be operating at 50 per cent of its full capacity. The facility would be operating at full capacity by the end of Phase 2.The facility is proposed to operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Those in favour
Local MPs, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Trust and Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor, have all thrown their weight behind the plans.
They say that it is an critical opportunity to invest in the West Midlands, support world-leading automotive sector, creating 6,000 new jobs and deliver Net Zero.
Given its location at the heart of the automotive and battery supply chain, its size and scale, they say that Coventry Airport is the ideal site for a West Midlands Gigafactory.
But hundreds have opposed the plans, including Baginton Parish Council for the impact on the greenbelt, the conservation area and the loss of the aviation facility.
This is shared by Bubbenhall Parish Council, which also lists traffic concerns while councillors have also stressed the concern of the development on the green belt among their objections.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation has also raised objections and said it would be a needless loss of Coventry runway when alternative sites should be considered.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has joined the list of objectors, as well a Royal Mail, which has its Coventry South Delivery Office just north of the development. It says it is the largest unit within the Coventry area and is a main mail, collection and distribution hub whilst also a mail processing unit.
UK Civil Aviation Authority Airfield Advisory Team also objects as it says that the Coventry Airport has always played an important role in the UK network of GA aerodromes. The airport represents one of only a few of the GA aerodromes large enough to accommodate large airliners making it a viable destination of choice for business aviation.
The ‘Save Coventry Airport’ group – a collection of airport users and aviation enthusiasts which has around 450 members – has also objected and there were a further 261 objections from those who live in and around the area.
Recommended for approval
The agenda for the Warwick District Council planning meeting, states: “The proposed development would result in the loss of a general aviation airport, which would also result in the loss of jobs and potential loss of associated businesses.
“There would be a loss of teaching and training opportunities and aviation history generally, although the air museum falls outside of the red line site plan. Social benefits from the airport would also be lost.
“However, the airport is considered to provide low levels of connectivity outside the authority’s own boundaries and it is not considered that the airport provides a significant contribution to economic growth across the country.
“Whilst the loss of existing employment and businesses at the site is extremely regrettable, the proposed development would result in an overall net increase in the direct number of people employed at the site of 5,804 people. This is significant. There would also be a potential overall net increase in GVA per job figure of £422 million.
“By the end of phase 1, the increase would be £205 million in comparison to the existing use. Again this is significant. The proposed gigafactory would also significantly contribute to the aspirations of the Industrial Strategy (2017).
“Whilst the current site contributes in this regard, the aforementioned figures show the potential which the proposed development has in economic terms. Moreover, in terms of building a strong economy, importantly, the proposal would secure the car manufacturing industry in the West Midlands. Without the proposed development, the West Midlands is at serious risk of losing this industry altogether.”
The report goes on to say that a ‘Very Special Circumstances Case’ has been made for the development on what is greenbelt land.
The applicant characterises these as:
- The urgent need for a gigafactory for the production of EV batteries in this location.
- That Coventry Airport is the only site capable of providing for this need, within the required timescales.
- The importance of meeting the need more swiftly than promotion through the Development Plan would allow.
- The extent to which the scheme is supported by policy and policymakers at all levels.
- The benefits of the scheme including in particular economic and sustainability considerations, but also the range of other benefits that would be delivered.
- The negative impacts that would arise if the scheme does not come forward.
“Officers consider that the information provided by the applicant, and the independent assessment of these details provide a clear and compelling case as very special circumstances,” the report states.
“There is clearly an urgent and real need to deliver a gigafactory, in this specific location to ensure that the automotive industry is sustained beyond 2030. Without the development, the lack of provision of a gigafactory for the manufacturing of EVs could have significant detrimental consequences. Moreover, the applicant has been able to adequately demonstratet hat this is the only site available within a suitable area, within the times cales required to address the urgent need identified.”
When the final decision will be made
Members of Warwick District Council will meet on January 11 to make the final decision on the planning application.
It is being recommended that it is given the go-ahead.
However, it is subject to a number of conditions and completion of a satisfactory Section 106 agreement, and subject to referral to the Secretary of State under the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2021.
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