Cold War airbase could welcome high-tech movie jobs

A high-tech employment cluster in Upper Heyford could host movie shoots and special effects experts, proposals say.

Published: Friday, 13th November 2020

The former US airbase has long been identified as a strategic development site by Cherwell District Council. On Thursday 5 November, the planning committee granted permission for plans encompassing 1,075 homes, 60 care homes, and 35,175 square metres of new employment buildings, subject to consideration by the Secretary of State.

Councillor Colin Clarke, Cherwell’s Lead Member for Planning, said: “This decision marks a major step forward for the council’s plans to deliver much needed-housing and jobs in Upper Heyford. Our vision is to bring skilled, specialist employment to this site, which will have a regional significance and attraction.”

Military development began at Upper Heyford in 1916 and ended in 1994. It is particularly notable for its Cold War era architecture.

The 457-hectare site already has a heritage centre, and the approved plans would expand the tourism value of the new community. Its architectural legacy would be largely conserved, while encouraging people to visit new features.

Overall, it is expected that the site could support 500 new jobs during the construction phase, making it possibly the third largest employer in Cherwell. The movie industry jobs would be housed in new buildings together with six refurbished former hardened aircraft shelters, dubbed ‘Creative City’ by the applicant. When fully realised, up to 1,500 jobs could be supported across the wider site.

The application is classed as ‘hybrid’, meaning that some areas of the proposal now have full planning permission. Other details, for example matters of building design, will need to be decided through future applications for planning permission.

Future residents would benefit from a new primary school and community sports facilities, open spaces and parks. Thirty per cent of the new homes would be classed as affordable.

Planning permission has been granted with conditions. They include the negotiation of a legal agreement to cover developer contributions towards highways works at the M40 J10 Padbury Roundabout and the A43 Baynards Roundabout.

They also include financial contributions towards rural traffic calming schemes in nine surrounding villages, including Lower Heyford, Ardley, Somerton, North Aston, Chesterton, Kirtlington and Fritwell.

Cllr Clarke added: “Upper Heyford has a strong historic identity. These plans put its notable architectural history at the heart of a new vision for tourism and employment, while also delivering much needed homes. Planning committee looks forward to scrutinising further details of the proposals as they are brought forward.”

The planning committee’s decision will now be reported to the National Planning Casework Unit for consideration as to whether it should be ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State.