Council to spend £5.7m on new North Weald airfield facilities following Google land sale

Around £5.7m is to be spent on building new facilities – including a new control tower – at North Weald airfield following the sale of land to Google for its new data centre.

The decision by Epping Forest District Council to proceed comes after Google paid £88.2m for 21 hectares of the council-owned airfield – where the current control tower sits.

A new combined control tower and fire station is estimated at £4.9m, new equipment for the tower is estimated at £300,000 and works for a new interim airfield entry point along with works associated with the electrical power supply is estimated at around £500,000.

In addition to its function as an unlicensed aerodrome with a varied mix of aviation activities including flight training, warbird and jet flight experiences and leisure flying,  the airfield is also home to the National Police Aviation Service (NPAS) and the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT) who operate emergency helicopters from the site.

Currently, the tower, gatehouse and fire station functions are sited within land bought by Google in late last year.

The best place for a new combined tower and fire station has been identified to the south of the site on the western side of the airfield.

The best new entry point has been identified as being at the existing Gate A which is located to the south of Merlin Way.

Councillor Tim Matthews, portfolio holder for Commercial and Estates, said at cabinet on May 28: “The aviation activity at North Weald airfield is not just part of the identity of North Weald airfield but also the identity of the whole district

“So ensuring the future of the aviation activities on this site is critical.”

The money will be used to build a new tower and fire service building with “state of the art facilities” replacing ageing equipment.

He added: “I was quite alarmed to hear about the age of some of the facilities currently being used in the tower.

“When looking to secure the future of aviation activities at North Weald this investment is going really shore up that future.”

The council has said the sale of land to Google means the site now carries “immense” potential.

Council leader Councillor Chris Whitbread said in January the deal “is a major milestone for our district’s journey towards innovation and economic growth.”

He added: “The potential that this development brings is immense – not only in terms of advancing our digital infrastructure but also in generating high-quality, well-paid employment opportunities and bolstering our local economy.

“The sale makes the best use of the land available at North Weald Airfield, both in terms of driving forward our local economy as well as meeting the recommendations of the strategic masterplan.”

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter