What next for Woodford? We look at the plans being discussed for the village's future
PUBLISHED: 18:08 14 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:59 20 February 2013
This tiny village is synonymous with aviation history, But plans being discussed for Woodford's future will change the character of the place forever WORDS BY RAY KING
The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Cheshire Life
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Any number of places can lay claim to having a significant bearing on how the Second World War was won from the streets of Stalingrad to the code-breaking huts of Bletchley Park.
But the tiny Cheshire village of Woodford has a strong case to argue too: here, in the huge Avro factory opened in 1925, 4,040 of the total 7,377 Lancasters the outstanding bomber of the conflict were assembled by more than 3,000 workers.
Today the cavernous building housing the assembly line that, post-war, produced many successful commercial airliners and latterly the ill-fated Nimrod maritime reconnaissance plane, stand eerily silent. The site was closed last March and decommissioning will be completed this month. Stockport council is also scheduled to publish its preferred options Supplementary Planning Document this month.
Woodfords proud role in aviation is history. All eyes are now on the future. Planning for that future will be a long and complex process not least because the site is so big more than 500 acres and Woodford is such a small community. Redevelopment, likely to extend over the next 10-15 years, will inevitably have a significant impact not only on the immediate surroundings Woodford, Poynton and Bramhall but potentially on a much wider area of Stockport and north east Cheshire.
All the major stakeholders, British Aerospace who own the land and will be seeking a return from any development, Stockport and East Cheshire councils and any future developers are pledged to involve local people and an exhibition and series of design workshops were staged in the village in June.
The six month task of clearing and remediating the site, due to take place between October 2012 and March 2013, will itself require significant investment according to BAe. The site will be marketed from October 2012.
Future planning is bound to take into account the fact that Woodford Aerodrome forms part of the Green Belt which will restrict the scope of redevelopment broadly in line with the area occupied by existing buildings. These account for 105 acres, less than a quarter of the site.
Four possible scenarios have been put forward. One is the use of existing buildings for continued employment activities, possibly office or warehousing. Secondly, housing: if new homes were built across 105 acres at the same low density as the existing village, there would be room for 315. At the other end of the spectrum, using figures common for medium density housing, the site could accommodate 1,260 new homes.
It has been suggested that there is a mixed use development providing up to 1,500 jobs and 590 homes of various densities. Even this would more than double the population of the village from 1,230 to 2,700 and possibly include a new school, health centre and local shops. The final option is for mixed use as described but with 641 houses some very low density on an enlarged 151 acre site.
It seems highly unlikely that the aerodrome runways will be used for aviation purposes whatever the future of the site.
Apart from the silent flight sheds and empty runways, all thats left of Woodford as an historic centre for aviation is the Avro Heritage Centre run by volunteers many of them proud former employees in a cramped building on the site crammed with artefacts, photographs and fascinating memorabilia.
According to the centres manager, George Jenks, the museum could be moved close to the Avro Golf Club, whose club house and nine-hole course sit adjacent to the runway, approached by a narrow lane by the side of Woodfords parish church. The Avro Golf Society is said to be the oldest in the North of England, having been formed in 1910 by Alliott Verdon Roe himself.
When the famous aviation pioneer built his factory and aerodrome in Woodford, the sleepy village changed for ever. It will soon change again, but the clock cannot and will not be turned back to 1925.