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Aerospace centre given the go-ahead in Yeovil to sure up industry as fear of job losses continues at GKN

An artist's impression of the new aerospace hub in Yeovil given the go-ahead by Somerset County Council today. Credit: artist's impression

Plans for a new aerospace technology centre in Yeovil have been approved by Somerset County Council.

The proposals to build the iAero centre are aimed at 'cementing Somerset's position as the centre of the country's aerospace industry'.

But the news comes just weeks after the jobs of dozens of workers were left in doubt after another aerospace company in Yeovil lost a major contract, leaving its survival in question.

Plans for the iAero Centre. Credit: Somerset County Council

Somerset County Council say the £10 million project could bring up to 175 jobs Yeovil.

The council has committed to spending £1 million on the project with other contributions coming from industry sources and European Union funding.

Under the plans Yeovil would be one of two key technology centres in thre South West, specialising in rotorcraft with a proposed centre in Bristol leading on fixed wing aircraft.

The council described the decision as 'a welcome boost following the recent announcement that the GKN facility in Yeovil faces possible closure'.

230 workers were sent home two weeks ago after the company was informed it was no longer needed to build Royal Navy helicopter parts for another Yeovil-based company Leonardo.

230 employees were sent home from GKN's Yeovil site two weeks ago. Credit: PA Images

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, said:

Aerospace is arguably the county’s most important area of manufacturing – there are around 200 supply chain businesses and in South Somerset alone it accounts for around 8% of total employment.

It’s a global industry and if we want these jobs to stay, we have to make sure Somerset remains an attractive place for these businesses to stay, grow and innovate.

This initiative is about securing the future of strategically important industry in the county and, in doing so, investing in Somerset jobs prospects, future economic prosperity and business rate income for the Council."

– Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council
The head of Leonardo Helicopters has welcomed the project. Credit: PA Images

John Ponsonby, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters on whose airfield the new centre will be located said:

As the largest aerospace company in Somerset we welcome Somerset County Council’s commitment to the iAero project and the benefits it will bring to small and medium sized aerospace companies in the local area, many of which are our suppliers.

We look forward to continuing our engagement with local authorities to maximise the economic and employment benefits iAero will bring."

– John Ponsonby, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters