A DRIVE to turn a former naval airfield into a thriving business park has got under way.
Sapphire Aviation, which specialises in aircraft management and handling, has moved into a hangar at the former HMS Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent.
It has become the first firm to benefit from Fareham and Gosport borough councils’ new business rate rebate scheme. This gives businesses the chance to be exempt from paying business rates for five years.
It’s hoped businesses will invest the money they save into creating new jobs – boosting the local economy.
Sapphire Aviation is a start-up firm, whose parent company is Sapphire Jet Ltd in West Sussex.
It had been looking at potential sites and finally settled on Daedalus. Twenty new jobs will be created.
Steve Ford, managing director at Sapphire Aviation, said the opportunity gives the firm the chance to invest in its infrastructure.
He said: ‘The money that would have gone into the rate system is being self-invested. It’s being spent directly on the infrastructure on the airfield to sustain it in the long term.
‘One of the biggest challenges for private enterprise is dealing with the public sector, but what’s happening here is the councils have approached it as if they were in the private sector as well.
‘There’s no free lunch. We’ve taken a 1941 hangar and made them usable, so employees can work in them safely.
‘Instead of going to Fareham and Gosport councils for grants, we are investing in ourselves and cutting out a lot of red tape, which is exactly what the government is talking about in making it easier for businesses.’
As reported, almost 1,200 jobs are set to be created after it was announced more than £25m will be pumped into Daedalus.
Fareham council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘It’s going to be huge for them.
‘As someone who runs a business themselves, it’s got incredible potential for jobs and enterprise in Fareham.
‘They have taken a few hangers in there. We are the council councils, in partnership, to have this scheme and the first in the country to get the scheme in operation.’