New engineering centre could mean thousands of new jobs for Downham Market
08:24 23 November 2015
Work on an ambitious new engineering centre bringing thousands of jobs to west Norfolk is expected to begin early next year.
Plans for a business and education centre in Downham Market will be unveiled today to MPs and Lords in the Houses of Parliament, at a reception hosted by South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.
Developers say negotiations to secure the £300m of funding needed for the Centre of Advanced Knowledge Engineering (CfAKE) are in advanced stages, with Chinese investors among those interested.
Leading the project is Downham Market Development (DMD), which will today present its plans for transforming the former RAF Downham Market, near Bexwell, into a campus focused on education and business.
It is hoped that the campus will create more than 4,500 new permanent jobs, and 1,600 temporary construction roles.
Development welcomed in town
Downham Market’s mayor, John Fox, said: “If there are jobs available in Downham that would be good.
“I see people going off to work at 6am and coming back at 7pm shattered, and therefore not taking part in the community.”
He said a jobs shortage at all levels could be met by this new engineering centre.
“Hopefully it is going to be something that will offer part-time and full-time employment for lots and lots of people,” he said.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss added: “This is a very exciting proposal for the Downham Market area.
“The event in the House of Commons showcases the aspirations of the project.
“Along with the upgrade of the A11, the half-hourly rail service on the King’s Lynn to London line due in 2017 and the £300m being invested in the A47 means south west Norfolk is very much the place to do business.”
Downham Market Town Team chairman Simon Prior said although it was a good opportunity for employment, the pressure of extra people on services such as the doctors’ surgery would need to be met.
“All of these people will need services and housing and everything that comes with an increased population,” he said.
DMD chief executive John Beer said now that testing of the land – to check for the presence of newts – had been complete, he hoped digging would start by April.
“Downham Market is the perfect place for the new CfAKE to be based as it is equidistant between Cambridge and Norwich, where there are already established technology-based business, education and research hub,” he added.
“And, for Downham Market itself it offers the youngsters in the area a really attractive career path and a sustainable long-term boost to the local economy.
“In an area that has had its share of neglect and lack of employment prospects this will be a really beneficial and game changing development,” said Mr Beer.
If work on the development goes according to plan, the first part of the site is expected to be complete by early 2017, with the first intake of students in September that year.
Are you planning a new major construction project? Call business writer Sabah Meddings on 01603 772879 or email firstname.lastname@example.org