How a Harborough company is converting a wartime RAF bomber station into a world-class testing centre for driverless cars

The former RAF Second World War Wellington bomber base is one of only six world-leading ‘testbeds’ across the UK

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 4:27 pm
Planning and development experts at Andrew Granger & Co have pulled out all the stops as Oakley Airfield is transformed into a state-of-the-art testing facility for automated car technology. Here is an artist's impression of the site.

A Market Harborough company has been working flat out to turn a wartime RAF bomber station into a world-class testing centre for driverless cars.

Planning and development experts at Andrew Granger & Co have pulled out all the stops as Oakley Airfield is transformed into a state-of-the-art testing facility for automated car technology.

The former RAF Second World War Wellington bomber base in Buckinghamshire is one of only six world-leading ‘testbeds’ across the UK.

They are being supported by £100 million poured in by the Government as Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets out to make Britain a centre of excellence for CAV (connected and autonomous vehicles) testing.

Oakley Airfield, which lies between Oakley and Worminghall, near Aylesbury, was closed in 1947 after its proud wartime role – and the land returned to farming in the 1950s.

Work on the cutting edge CAVWAY blueprint has now started - and the pivotal scheme is set to be completed by the end of 2021.

Chris Green a planner for Andrew Granger & Co who has been leading the venture, said: “It was clear from the outset that this was going to be an exciting opportunity.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the clients in obtaining consent for this top-class facility.

“Having worked closely with the local authority’s economic development department, as well as engaging with both of the local parish councils, it was crucial that we balanced all the material planning considerations and mitigated any impacts from the proposals in a prompt and effective manner.”

He added: “As a result the consented project will now deliver significant economic benefits in line with central Government priorities and the aims of the National Industrial Strategy.

“That is in addition to a host of benefits for the local community – ranging from employment opportunities to enhanced biodiversity and extended public bridleways around the site.”

The CAVWAY initiative was awarded to two companies – Applus IDIADA and Prova Developments Ltd – which have both built up many decades in automotive engineering between them.

David Price, Innovation and Technology specialist at Applus IDIADA and technical lead for the CAVWAY scheme, said: “The size of this project, along with the kind of issues that we have encountered on such a diverse site, has meant that the process has not been without it’s difficulties.

“Chris Green has been a great help in assisting us to get through this last 12 months and the challenges that we have faced, including some significant ecological matters that needed addressing.”

He added: “With Andrew Granger & Co’s help, we’ve now overcome the bulk of the planning and preliminary concerns.

“And we look forward to commencing full construction and the exciting project ahead.”

You can find out more about the CAVWAY project at www.cavway.co.uk