EXTRA funding has been committed to the construction of an aerospace innovation centre in Somerset as part of the government’s wider efforts at boosting economic growth.

Construction is underway on the iAero aerospace innovation centre in Bunford Lane, Yeovil, not far from the headquarters of Leonardo Helicopters.

The government has announced that the project will receive a share of £8.7 million which has been allocated to delivering employment hubs across the south west.

Some of this money will also be allocated to a new rural enterprise centre in Bruton, for which revised planning permission was granted in May.

The funding was announced as part of the government’s Getting Building fund, which is providing around £900m of funding for projects across the UK.

A total of £8.7m is being divided across work hubs and other employment-driven projects in Somerset, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay – the area covered by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

In Yeovil, the iAero centre will provide nearly 2,400 sq m for research and development to keep the town’s aerospace industry at the cutting edge in a post-Brexit world.

Work on the £8m centre was began by contractor Willmott Dixon in July 2019, with the facility being fully open to the public in 2021 – and construction has continued despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Just over £3m of the funding for the centre comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with the remainder coming from Somerset County Council, Leonardo Helicopters and the LEP.

The new funding being committed will go towards the cost of ‘fitting out’ the centre’s interior – providing “workspace equipment and support services to support aerospace and advanced engineering.”

Meanwhile in Bruton, the funding will allow light industrial space to be provided alongside more than 350 sq m of flexible office space for small and medium enterprises.

The facility, on council-owned land at Burrowfield on the A359 Frome Road, will cost nearly £1.6m to build, according to estimates published at the time the revised plans were approved by South Somerset District Council.

Somerset County Council will now submit detailed business cases for both the Yeovil and Bruton projects, which will determine precisely how much of the £8.7m they will end up receiving.

Somerset County Gazette:

BUSINESS BOOST: From the proposed Rural Enterprise Centre in Bruton. PICTURE: Grainge Architects

The news has been warmly welcomed by Councillor David Hall, the county council’s cabinet member for economic development, planning and community infrastructure.

“This is great news – we have lobbied very hard for funding," he said.

“If our bids are successful, all these schemes will help to unlock Somerset’s economic potential and growth, creating new job opportunities.

“We’re delighted that four Somerset projects have got through to the next crucial stage and work will now start on completing business cases by the end of August.”