Blow as aviation firm jets off from enterprise zone

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A COMPANY that was quick off the mark to reap the benefits on offer at Daedalus enterprise zone has left the airfield – after just 14 months.

Sapphire Aviation moved on to the site of former HMS Daedalus, in Lee-on-the-Solent, in October 2012.

The aircraft management and handling firm was the first to benefit from Fareham and Gosport borough councils’ business rate rebate scheme.

As reported, the firm created 20 new jobs when it moved in and also ran four apprenticeships.

Council leaders hope the £50m Daedalus investment in the site will create 1,200 jobs overall.

But opposition leaders have expressed concern after Sapphire’s departure.

Councillor Dennis Wright leads the Labour opposition group at Gosport’s council.

He told The News: ‘I didn’t know about this, I’m much surprised to hear it.

‘They’re a company that has taken advantage of the business rate offer for a while then pulled out and left.

‘The Daedalus site is much-heralded as creating jobs for Gosport that we haven’t had for many years and I’m very disappointed to hear this.’

Steve Ford, managing director of Sapphire, said: ‘I can confirm the facts, that we ceased our operations at Daedalus on December 31.’

The departure means flights need to get advance permission to land, under new airfield operator rules.

It had meant visitors will need to give the airfield 24 hours written notice on weekdays, or by Friday to visit on weekends or a Monday.

But William Hynett, chief executive of airfield operator Britten-Norman said this will only apply out of hours.

He said a notice issued this week saying it would apply 24 hours a day was a mistake.

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham’s council, said the zone is a success and he understands Sapphire could be moving back to the site.

He told The News: ‘Fareham Borough Council is investing £8.5m at the moment, resurfacing the runway, building a business innovation centre and building new hangar space.

‘We’ve got a lot of companies coming on to the site. In fact so many are looking to move in that we’ve had to suspend advertising.’

Graham Burgess, deputy leader of Gosport’s council, said the site is bringing more jobs to the area.

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